The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can reach 30 meters in height and 2 meters in diameter, forming a thick bead or broadly ovate crown. The bark of the trunk is gray-brown, smooth at first but later crack in tiles. Leaves composed of 5-7 elongated ovoid petals, reaching 20 cm in length. Horse chestnut blooms almost simultaneously or immediately after leafing in April-May, resulting in a very beautiful appearance. The flowers are white with yellow or red spot at the base, collected in large, upright clusters. Fruits are spherical pods covered with spikes that ripen in early fall. In early fall the fruit ripens and splits, causing big and shiny seeds to come out of it. The kid’s favourite conkers are not edible. Horse chestnut grows rapidly. The one-year sapling reaches 50 cm or more in height and develops a deep central root.
Horse chestnut is distributed only in the Balkans.
In Bulgaria as a landrace it occurs only in Preslav mountain at 380-500 m altitude. This place was declared a reserve under the name "Dervish," and the tree - protected species. Over the past century horse chestnut tree was planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens everywhere in Bulgaria. Today the decorative effect of the species has gained popularity both at home and abroad.
Horse chestnut prefers bright, moisture places and demands certain soil conditions. In more prolonged droughts combined with high temperatures, it suffers from burnout leaves. The species is sensitive to factory emissions and urban smoke.
Perhaps it is important to note that representatives of the genus Horse chestnut (Aesculus) differ from those of the genus Chestnuts (Castanea), including the actual (true) chestnuts. The most famous representative of the family Chestnut family is the sweet (regular) chestnut (Castanea sativa).
Horse chestnut differs from the edible sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) significantly. For this reason both species (horse chestnut and sweet) are included in different families in the systematization of plants. Regarding their names - the name "horse" is used in the sense that the fruits of this kind are not edible for humans, but can be "fed to the horses' unlike his counterpart delicious sweet chestnut.
Although not used in cooking, horse chestnut is not useless to humans. Its use is known in the medical field.
// Bozhana Ribarova