horse chestnut tree

The Euston chestnut tree.
Below: in bloom in spring.

horse chestnut tree in flower

Trees of London


The Horse Chestnut

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              The horse chestnut tree at Euston is a really good example. Despite its place of importance in the national psyche, this tree is not a native tree, in fact it was not introduced into Britain until the sixteenth century. It is perhaps Bulgaria's greatest contribution to this country, since this tree originates from there. Through the schoolboys' game 'conkers', it has a universal fame, and along with the acorn from the oak tree, it has the most famous nut.

              The bark of the horse chestnut is a little bit rugged, but is strong looking. It often looks as if it has huge great wounds, but wounds that look as though they have healed crudely leaving pronounced scars. Its leaves are unique; they are called palmately compound. They are large and radiate in a circle. It is not exactly easy to recognize this tree in the winter when it is bare of nuts and leaves, but one distinguishing feature it does have is that its buds are quite large and pronounced from very early on in the year, often during the height of winter. They look as though they are about to burst into leaf long before they actually do. They tend to be quite thick as well.

              In recent years, people have become alarmed by the unhealthy condition of the horse chestnut; the leaves look like they have measles and they fall off prematurely. This has been caused by a micro-moth called the Cameraria Ohridella, which is also from Bulgaria. It lays its eggs in the leaves of the horse chestnut. However, it is not thought that this does the tree any long term harm.

A red horse chestnut tree
beside Buckingham Palace

red horse chestnut tree

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Other Trees at Euston

tree of heaven      whitebeam      Turkey oak

ash      red oak      fig


Tree Identification

Aesculus hippocastanum:

opposite; palmately compound; even the leaflets are large.

chestnut leaf
horse chestnut

nuts/fruit: round, green with spikes; inside: conkers.

horse chestnut flower

white; grow upwards in cone shaped panicles.

chestnut tree bark bark:
smooth grey when young; rugged when old.
grows to 30 metres; main branches separate low down; round crown; stocky.
general: most famous for the schoolboy game: conkers, in which the nuts are used.

Second tree along from the south-west entrance
on the Euston Road.
Marked red on map.

Trees of London        A James Wilkinson Publication ©