One of our most-familiar British trees must be the horse chestnut (possibly on a par with the oak) due to its distinctive conkers. It really is quite an interesting tree. Read on…
During September through October, you will come across plenty of conkers on the ground if you are out & about walking. When I was young, we used to play conkers. This involved threading a piece of string through a conker and attempting to smash someone else’s conker with your own. It was good fun, if a little violent – you had to be careful you didn’t get your fingers bashed! If you want to find out more about the game of conkers, the Wikipedia page is a great resource – enjoy!
The horse chestnut was introduced to the UK from Turkey in the 1500s. You are unlikely to see them in woods, but they are prolific in parks, village greens and streets.
Bees love the flowers; caterpillars love the leaves and mammals eat the conkers – although they can cause sickness in some animals.
The word ‘conker’ comes from conch and originally children used snail shells to play ‘conkers’. During both the First and Second World Wars, everyone, including children, was asked by the government to collect conkers for use in making weapons.
Have you heard of the ‘Anne Frank Tree’? Well, this horse chestnut tree used to live in the centre of Amsterdam and Anne wrote about it in her famous diaries. Sadly, the tree succumbed to strong winds in 2010 and blew down. Luckily, new trees have been planted from its seeds and can be found in parts of America.
You may remember I wrote an article about bonsai trees a while back. The horse chestnut is a favourite to use – I wonder if they produce miniature conkers?
Very sadly, our horse chestnuts are under attack from two different sources. One is the leaf miner moth and the other is something called bleeding canker. According to experts, half of our trees are being affected. If you have a horse chestnut that isn’t looking too good, you can find out what to do via this link from Nature’s Calendar. Let’s hope it isn’t the start of the end for our lovely horse chestnuts.
Do you know your trees. Why not see just how well you know them by playing our Nature quizzes? We have over sixty of them, including ones on British trees and trees of the world. See if you can get 10-out-of-10 in them all!