Freitag, 20. Mai 2011

Plant of the Day (May 21st , 2011) - Aesculus hippocastanum L.

Because I will be very busy today, I will present today's “Plant of the Day” article a little bit earlier. It is Aeculus hippocastanum L., a very impressing and beautiful (for me at least) tree from the family of the Sapindaceae and the sub-family Hippocastanoide. I'm really sure, the most of you know this tree or have seen it before. In English, it's known as “conker tree” or “horse chestnut” and in German as “Gewöhnliche Rosskastanie”.

A. hippocastanum - habitus

It's a tall tree, which can reach highs about 25 metres (82 feet). The leaves are digitate and very large. The single leaflets are inverted egg-shaped. There are between five and seven leaflets. The also large flowers are sitting into a upright panicle as inflorescence. Their petals are white with a red, yellow or purple spot at the base.

A. hippocastanum - flowers

A. hippocastanum - leaf

Horse chestnut” is probably best known for its fruits: the chestnuts. These are spiky capsules with the typical brown seed with its white and large hilum. The looks similar to the fruits of Castanea sativa Mill. but unlike to this species, the fruits are inedible.

A. hippocastanum - flowers

Originally the species is endemic to the Balkan region (e. g. Greece, Albania or the Republic of Macedonia), where it grows in shady, fresh ravine forests with neutral or slightly alkaline soils. However, it has also become very popular as park or garden tree, so you can find it in all over Middle Europe today.
A. hippocastanum - flowers

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