Skip navigation |
Ancient Tree Hunt [Accessibility Options]
[Sign In] [Sign Up]
Ancient Tree ForumThe Tree Register

Tree of the month - the horse chestnut

Introduced to Britain in the early 1600s, the horse chestnut is generally considered to be relatively short-lived at up to 250 years, whilst often becoming a veteran by 150 years.

The demise of a horse chestnut visually appears to be quite rapid and with a short period of being in a physical ancient state, it is difficult to identify truly ancient trees which may be pre 1750. It is therefore, not surprising, that of the 2,000 horse chestnut trees recorded on the ATI, approximately 50% are considered “notable” and 50% “veteran”.

A survey, by The Royal Parks, records some horse chestnut in Chestnut Avenue, Bushy Park, Teddington, as being survivors from the original planting in 1699. These trees are clearly ancient in age for their species but visually do not display this in a way that easily identifies them. The 17th century common lime trees, planted in rows adjacent to the horse chestnut, have more obvious ancient features. As avenue trees, their girths are not remarkable but slow growth has probably been a significant factor in their longevity.

Casual observations suggest our oldest horse chestnuts are showing signs of being able to cope better with the pests and diseases that have killed many younger trees in recent years. Experts have described veteran horse chestnut as being a valuable habitat tree to support wildlife in the absence of other ancient trees. With current diseases, the lack of planting of new horse chestnut is understandable but as with ash, perhaps we should be looking at the provenance of our ancient trees to ensure there will be a future crop of conkers in the British landscape.

Photo of early 18th century ancient Horse chestnut at Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire. The British champion at 7.33m in girth.