Tree of the month: Red horse chestnut (Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’)

by Caroline Brown

I’m way overdue for a tree of the month selection! This month I picked red horse chestnut, Aseculus x carnea ‘Briotti’. I actually haven’t seen this tree in bloom before and I think it’s quite exotic looking for New England. This is probably as close as we in the Northeast will be able to get to crape myrtles, the ubiquitous blossoming tree seen so often in street plantings and mall parking lots in the South.

The red horse chestnut is a hybrid of common horse chestnut A. hippocastanum and red buckeye A. pavia, cultivated for garden use. It’s a deciduous tree that grows to 30-40 feet tall upon maturity. Its pinkish or red blossoms bloom in the spring. It likes full sun or light shade and moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils.

I don’t know if Bach Flower Remedies work or not–they’re the company that make Rescue Remedy among many other “flower essences” used for various psychological ailments. One of the 38 essences is made of red horse chestnut. According to their website, it’s supposed to be good for those who “find it difficult not to be anxious for other people.”

Well, I certainly hope the flower essence is based on the flower not the nut, because the nut is supposed to be poisonous. It contains saponins, which is toxic to many animals, including humans, though to a lesser extent. Supposedly if you cut up the nut into small pieces or grind them into flour, you can leach the poison out by rinsing it several times and pouring the water out, but I won’t be the one testing out that theory.

The nuts look like a bit like a regular chestnut and are surrounded by a thick hull. They’re sometimes called conkers. It’s easy to see why–a falling one would probably conk you out. For that reason, this would probably be an ill-chosen street tree. In parts of the UK, children play a game, also called “conkers,” with the nuts–maybe they throw them at one another.

Whenever I pick a tree of the month, I try to pick one that has multiple uses. Buuuuut, I freely admit that I picked red horse chestnut just because it’s pretty!

Blossom and nut photos courtesy of Wikipedia.


27 Comments to “Tree of the month: Red horse chestnut (Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’)”

  1. Hello
    Nice to see you back again.
    I thought I’d enlighten you about conkers. We all-as kids- play this during the Autumn, we don’t throw them at each other though!
    Here’s an explantation

    Best wishes

  2. Hello! Here is still another mention of this glorious tree:

    I remember a show stopping specimen outside of Sonoma Valley Gardens in CA. Huge candelabra shape and huge red blossoms. When the tree is in bloom, I think the employees must feel like broken records saying over and over “It’s a red horse chestnut!!” to all who asked about it.

    Thanks for the good post about a great tree. Bonnie

  3. I love your selection Caroline. I hadn’t known about this one before. I’m familiar with the common horse chestnut and love that tree very much so this was of definite interest. I have used and know many people who use the Bach Remedies, mostly for dogs but some people use it too. It’s a mild tincture though many have results.

    Very interesting post!


  4. What a gorgeous tree Caroline and interesting re: the flower remedies. I’ve used some of these (remedies) in the past but not this particular one. Good to know about the warning.

    Love your ‘believe’ logo on your sidebar. Good to see a new post at EFG. G πŸ™‚

  5. PS: I had previous clicked the Believe logo and nothing happened, today it did. Sounds like a person (Obama) that can be believed in, let’s hope eh? G

  6. Hi Richard, thanks for the info! I can’t wait to say “Oddly oddly onker my first conker” later this season. πŸ™‚

    Hi Bonnie, I know what you mean. Thank heavens the tree had a tag on it or I would’ve had to track down somebody in the Parks Dept to find out what it was! It was the kind of tree I HAD to know about.

    Hi Dianne, I wonder if the healing in Bach Remedies is due to the brandy. Who needs flower essences when there’s brandy involved? πŸ™‚

    Hi G., thanks for coming by. Indeed, I’m keeping my hopes up these days, you too I trust.

  7. It’s a beautiful three… How big is i gonna be?

  8. Hi JOe, this tree will usually be between 30-40 feet tall. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Hi, I am wondering where I might purchase the Red Horse Chestnut. All I can find is the Red Buckeye and I would rather have Aesculus X Carnea due to its extended height.
    Any help would be great!

  10. We grow Briotti Red Horsechestnut in a 10 gallon container. My question: have you ever found variance of flower color from year to year? We are seeing our crops have more cream color this year and are wondering if it could be weather, fertilizer, or something else.

  11. I have a two year old red horse chestnut tree puarchased from a nursery
    it’s leaves are very very healthy except it does not bloom.
    this is now the second spring for it in the ground…
    Why is this is it too young?

  12. Thanks for sharing, Caroline. Amazing Article !
    I really enjoyed reading it.

    If you’re looking to find out more about Flower Esscence Products and their effects, take a look at this website:

    I personally bought a number of their products, and the results are outstanding.

  13. I have had this tree for 10 years now and have studied it’s growth and habits. My tree sits on a bank where it recieves morning sun but come early afternoon and it is over shawdowed by two giant oak trees, one being a red oak and the other a pin oak. It has been a slow grower yet has produced many, many flowers in the spring time that are show stoppers to many. You have to wait for the tree to fully open it’s bloom because at first they seem to be more pale pink or white until they are fully opened. This being said I have noticed that the leaves seems to get mildew in the late summer and began to fall off in August. This was the first year that it produced fruit which consisted of only two. Now this being said I want to also tell you that my neighbor several houses from mine had one planted about 2 years after mine in full sun and it has out grown mine by 10 fold. It is at least 12 to 15 foot high and probably that wide too. Mine being planted first is only about 7 to 8 foot tall and about 5 to 6 foot wide. Theirs produces many more flowers than mine and is even more spectacular in the spring with an abundance of fruits or nuts as they are called. I also have noticed that theirs doesn’t get the mildew. Either way if I was to choose a tree again it would be this tree but I would have placed it in more direct sun then I did.

  14. Which of the horse chestnut tress have the most red blossoms?

  15. Where can I purchase this tree?

  16. The game ‘conkers” is played with the large chestnut seeds.

    My mom who, was British, taught me that you pierce the nut wit string and have the nut dangle from the string….while your opponent try’s to “whack” your nut with his/hers on a string with one swipe.
    You take turns whacking each others chestnut ….until one falls apart…the one left in tack is the winner.

    Have fun……
    My friend used to coat his chestnut with lacquer to make it really difficult to split open.

  17. How old does the tree have to be before it blooms. I have one that is about 5 years old and it has never bloomed. What do you suggest?

    • I planted a 2″ diameter, about 8 foot tall Briotti Red Horsechestnut from a high quality nursery 8 years ago (balled and in burlap). It is located between 2 homes in the Albany, NY area and gets a fair amount of sun, having grown about 10 feet since planting. It flowers very nicely every year, including its first year, but has had only 3 total fruit in all these years. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers in May, which is a nice touch. The leaves get stressed most summers unless there is consistent rain.

  18. Fine ! Now please tell me where I can buy a red flowered horse chestnut tree in the Northern Illinois area ?

  19. I finally found this on line! Been loking all over to see what I have here. I live in Carlton, Oregon and I have a “hedge” that is at least 70′ long with these. They were planted so close together that they are only about 2 feet apart, thus the hedge look. And we keep it trimmed back to keep it from being so think over our flowerbed. (It’s on the neighboring farmers property line.) It’s gorgeous when it blooms in the spring and the hummingbirds and honey bees love it too.
    I’ve seen them growing in the nursery fields in the area too, so apparently they can grow in the NW just fine. These were small when we moved into our home 6 yrs. ago and are now at least 25′ tall. They drop their leaves in the fall, after turning amazing colors.

  20. Is there a chestnut tree that doesnt bare fruit ?

  21. It is frustrating to read the original nomination and then the comments without knowing the growing zone referred to by the writers. Especially when one lives in a shady location in zone three where so many trees and plants do not do well.

  22. Ahhh … conkers! Takes me back to my childhood. We used to season ours by rubbing on multiple layers of olive oil, which tend to harden them. If you want to be the last kid standing, with the unblemished conker, then try this!

  23. I bought one Aesculus x carnea “Briotti” from Wayside in the early 1990s. Now in 2013, the tree has only grown to a height of about 40 inches, and this is the first year we have seen a bloom on it. The single bloom is not the “deep red” described in the catalog and pictured (I still have the picture from the catalog), but a sort of creamy pink. Big disappointment after waiting two decades.

  24. I saw this tree today while walking by the University of KY main library. They are spectacular ! I didn’t know the name of the tree so I pulled a leaf and took it the university greenhouse to get it identified. Would love to have one in my yard!

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