Tree of the Week: Heritage Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

January 21, 2013

by Nick Neylon

For the tree of the week, I chose the Minneapolis Heritage Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).P1090006.jpg This is the largest Horse Chestnut in the city, and it is right in front of Folwell hall on East Bank Campus! I would walk right by this tree every day, and until recently never took the time to notice it. It used to have another similar Horse Chestnut across the sidewalk, but that has been replaced with a new tree.

Horse Chestnuts are native to Greece and Albania, but are now widely cultivated in parks and urban areas. They grow very slowly, but can reach 50′ to 75′ on average, with some up to 100′. They grow taller than they are wide, and have a dome shaped or oval final form. The name comes from their large, hard seeds, that were once believed to cure horse chest ailments, but have since been proven to be poisonous. The seeds, which can be messy, and dangerous if ingested, along with their tendency to grow to massive size are the main concern when planting a horse chestnut.

Despite this, they enjoy enormous popularity.They are hardy trees, in zone 3, making them great candidates for Minneapolis. They also do well in most soil types, preferring moist roomy soil. The trees have showy white, yellow, and red flowers and rich foliage.

Other than this heritage sample, the Horse Chestnut has enjoyed popularity as a common choice for German beer gardens. It was a common choice because of its wide deep shade, that kept patrons cool. Also, the “Anne Frank Tree“, which Anne Frank mentions in her diary multiple times, was a Horse Chestnut. It was locate in the middle of Amsterdam. This tree sadly blew over in 2010, weighting in at 27 metric tons.