24th September 2014

Conkers are falling out of the sky now! Horse Chestnut Trees, not native to the UK, can live to be 300 years old. Their sticky buds come in early spring (the sticky sap protects them from frost) and the candelabra flowers in May provide pollen and nectar for many insects, especially bees. The leaves are also the food plant for Triangle Moths and leaf-miners, which lead to the familiar white patches that appear sometimes. Scrunched up in a bit of water, the leaves also produce a mildly antiseptic soap which is handy if your out and get a bit muddy! Horse Chestnut is sometimes used in Shampoos. When the leaves start to change colour and fall, as they are already, look for the inverted horse-shoe-shaped scar (with what looks like nail-holes) they leave on the stem- this

One of the first trees to turn to autumn colours, the Horse Chestnut fruits, Conkers, are ripe now.

One of the first trees to turn to autumn colours, the Horse Chestnut fruits, Conkers, are ripe now.

A Conker's slightly prickly case

A Conker’s slightly prickly case

This Horse Chestnut case has fallen recently and has just opened to reveal the beautiful, shiny Conker encased inside.

This Horse Chestnut case has fallen recently and has just opened to reveal the beautiful, shiny Conker encased inside.

may give rise to the name of the tree. The best thing, of course, is the slightly prickly fruit-cases which house gorgeous shiny, mahogany-coloured Conkers. These are slightly toxic but used to be ground up and given to horses to treat coughs, which may also explain the name. The well known game of Conkers, a name thought to derive from “Conch’ (the game thought to have first been played with shells) is the best known thing about them and the first record of it being played is on the Isle of Wight in 1848 though surely it has been played longer than that. Conditions: Some run overnight ad a col, dry day with some sun. Temperature: Max 16- Min 11 C.

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