Horse Chestnut

The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a medium-sized to large tree, reaching a height of 50 to 70 feet.  It has a spreading, rounded crown and massive clusters of flowers. The horse chestnut provides dense shade and has been widely planted in Iowa as an ornamental.

Hardiness: Zones 4 through 7

side by side images of white and pink horse chestnut flowers and pink and white horse chestnut flowers
Horse Chestnut Flowers, Photos by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

Growth Rate: Moderate

Mature Shape: Oval

Height: 50-75 feet

Width: 40-70 feet

Site Requirements: Vary adaptable

Leaves: Opposite, compound

Flowering Dates: April - June

Seed Dispersal Dates: September - October

Seed Bearing Age:

Seed Bearing Frequency: Yearly

Seed Stratification: Prechill seeds for 4 months at 34°F to 40°F

The large leaves are palmately compound with seven individual leaflets which are broad toward the tip and somewhat narrowed near the base. The leaflets have no stalks, and at the tips they taper to an abrupt point. They are hairy when young but become smooth as they mature.

The fruit is round and covered with spines. Inside the spiny husk is a bitter, inedible nut with a large, conspicuous scar.

The twigs are reddish brown, stout and have prominent horse-shoe-shaped leaf scars with a series of so-called bundle-scars around the margin serving to represent the nails.

horse chestnut leaves
Horse Chestnut Leaves - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

horse chestnut trunk showing bark
Horse Chestnut Bark - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

horse chestnut twig
Horse Chestnut Twig - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University