CHESTNUT, properly called the horse chestnut : Aesculus hippocastanum
This is an intriduced species, but can be found growing wild in West Dunbartonshire such as along the banks of the Leven.
Flowers appear in upright clusters in May. They have 4–5 fringed petals, which are white with a pink flush at the base. The overall effect is stunning.
However they are often better known for being the tree that conkers come from. The spiky green cases burst open to expose the gleaming seeds, thee mahogany -like conkers celebrated by children. These are the horse chestnuts, the very essence of autumn.
Mature horse chestnut trees grow to a height of around 40m and can live for up to 300 years. The wood tends to be rather weak and has never been widely used for anything that requires strength. However, it has absorbent properties that make it ideal for fruit racks and storage trays that keep the fruit dry and thereby prevent rotting. Extracts are produced from the leaves and nuts as they have aescin and aesculin. These are used for herbal remedies because of their anti-inflammatory properties. The outer green casing of the nut is toxic. As with so many other plants, they have to be properly perpared.
The nuts provide food for deer and other mammals and the flowers provide pollen for insects.
Several large horse chestnut trees grow right on the banks of the upper Leven and even overhang it.
The flowers appear in May.