How to grow horse chestnut
The horse chestnut or chestnut of India (Aesculus hippocastanum L., 1753) is an arboreal species of the Sapindaceae family, quite common in Europe. It is a species widely used as an ornamental plant in the avenues or as an isolated plant as it creates a very large and dense area of shade and for the beauty of its foliage and its beautiful flowers.
It is a tree that exceeds even 30 meters in height with a robust and deep root system, with elegant trunk and erect and with the dark gray bark that smoothes in the young specimens becomes wrinkled and scaly in the adult ones. The tree is endowed with a large crown and expanded by a pyramidal shape.
The leaves of the horse-chestnut are bright green in the upper page and light green in the lower one. The ribs on the underside of the leaves are velvety to the touch due to the presence of a light down. These leaves before falling in the autumn period, take on a beautiful intense yellow color due to the high presence of xanthophyll. The panicle inflorescences are of a color that varies from white to pink depending on the variety. From fertilization we obtain fruits that are large spherical and aculeate capsules of light green color containing 1 – 3 seeds of glossy brown color, not edible, commonly called by the name of mad chestnut.
In this sheet we will see how to grow the Horse Chestnut and the most appropriate agronomic techniques.
To cultivate the Horse Chestnut must choose an area with good exposure for many hours a day and with a warm – humid climate.
It is a plant that does not tolerate too low temperatures, salinity and atmospheric pollution. The plant adapts to any type of soil, provided it is rich in organic substance and well drained. As for irrigation, this should be destined for young specimens especially during the period between late spring and early autumn; the adult specimens form a root system capable of growing without any need for irrigation.
Fertilization must be carried out before the plant by introducing organic substance into the hole and then every year, during the autumn, by administering an organic fertilizer to the base of the tree.
The Aesculus hippocastanum is a plant that propagates by seed. The seeds, that is the chestnuts, are sown in the autumn period immediately after harvesting, placed in protected seedbeds or directly at home. The germination of the seeds will take place in spring. The final horse-chestnut transplant is generally carried out in autumn after 3 years of protected cultivation, when the young seedlings have already achieved good vegetative stability.
Regarding the phytopathological adversities, we remember that the horse chestnut fears the attack of cochineals and aphids that usually nest in leaf intersections. Another disease that this plant meets is anthracnose, which causes the leaves to dry out.
Moreover, in the last 20 years, the horse chestnut tree has been subject to the infestations of the larvae of a small lepidoptera which is the leaf minestration of the horse chestnut (Cameraria ohridella Deschka & Dimic, 1986). The infested horse-chestnut if not treated promptly dies in a short time.
Beware of the fruits of the horse chestnut, that is the chestnuts; these are not edible and present toxicity to humans: ingestion causes diarrhea, vomiting and in the most severe cases bleeding. They are not toxic for pets.
They are used for their physiotherapeutic properties as an ingredient of some herbal products.