Horse Chestnuts: White v Red

White horse chestnut leaves
Red Horse chestnut leaves

In the comments on my post about European (White) horse-chestnut trees and Red horse-chestnut trees, Deb Weyrich-Cody helpfully posted a link to the Morton Arboretum in Illinois.

It explains that the Red horse-chestnut is a cross between the European (White) horse-chestnut and a red buckeye.

And it says the Red horse-chestnut is non-native. Is that a reference to the buckeye or to the European (White) horse-chestnut?

Well the Morton Arboretum says that red buckeyes are native to the southern United States, up into the southern tip of Illinois.

So that makes sense and ties up nicely with the information that European (White) horse-chestnuts originally comes from the Caucasus in south-Eastern Europe.

According to the Morton Arboretum, red buckeyes grow to 15-25 feet, and that perhaps explains why Red horse-chestnuts are smaller than the white, at least in all the ones I have seen.

Another Look At The Trees

One thing I have learned is that it is easy to look and hard to see. But armed with that bit of tree architecture I went out to look at the trees again.

Now I see what I had seen before but brushed under the carpet of my brain – that the leaves on the red and the white are not the same. You can see that in the photos above.

Of Chestnuts and Conkers

Another thing I know from last year is that unlike the familiar spherical shape of the conker on the White horse chestnut, the Red is more oval in shape – a bit ‘walnut’ in shape.

Let’s see what the Latin names say;

European (White) horse-chestnut: Aesculus hippocastanum
Red buckeye: Aesculus pavia
Red horse-chestnut: Aesculus carnea

The name “hippocastanum” means, literally, “horse chestnut” from the use of the seed to treat coughs and broken wind in horses and to distinguish it from the chestnuts that people eat (Spanish chestnuts).

Here are the young conkers forming on a European (White) horse-chestnut.

Conkers In The Making

When I can, I will go searching for the conkers of the Red. Although, it is a question as to whether they can properly be called conkers at all. Nuts, yes. But conkers?

Would any self-respecting conqueror / conker-er use a nut from a Red to battle his or her opponent?

Moorhens in May: The Beak In The Riverbank

First we saw dad with a chick. Then dad picked some food out of the water and delivered it mum in a nest tucked into the riverbank.

Then dad swam off to the right and the little scruff-ball of a tiny chick was all alone.

The chick pootled around for minute and then started to climb up to the nest, it’s tiny little winds flapping to help it along.

Ohh.

It slid back down the steep bank.

Would it make it, could it make it?

Yes! Another try it was in the nest.

Oh what joy.

Where Is The Nest?

The site of the nest highlighted
Can you see the yellow beak peeking out of the nest?

In truth I do not know whether moorhens split their time on the nest with dad on the nest some of the time.

So where I have said that dad passed the food to mum, and dad swam off, it might be the other parent.