Inside the prickly outer casing that fell from a horse chestnut is a conker. I picked this one from the ground beneath a tree today and brought it home. I ran a knife carefully along one of the plates that make up the case, to reveal what is within.
And here is the conker, with its outer casing split apart. As you can see, there is just a single conker. When I picked it from the ground I didn’t know whether it would have a single conker within or, like others that I found, would have three conkers occupying it.
I was a bit surprised at how incredibly smooth the conker is. It’s terrific looking! Although those spikes must be there to put off animals, I imagine? Quite formidable they are.
I imagine a horse wouldn’t have much trouble breaking apart the spiky shell. And one of the supposed reasons that the horse chestnut is called that is because ground up chestnuts were fed to horses to cure coughs. I don’t know how true that is but Finally, an oil used to be extracted from horse chestnuts and used to shine up horses’ hooves.
Another story as to why the tree is called a horse chestnut is that at the point where a stalk joins a twig there is a horseshoe – or at least the shape of one. Take a look at my post from 2020 ‘The Delight Of Horse Chestnut Trees In Cambridge – there’s a photo of the ‘horseshoe’ there.
Pigs will eat horse chestnuts, so that’s a reason the spikes are needed.
Very interesting connections here, David, and now I’m reading your other post. I am on my way to being a well-informed horse chestnut viewer at long last, thanks! 🤩