Aesculus indica

Common name:

  • Indian horse chestnut tree

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • Spring / Summer

Description of plant:

A large deciduous tree with a spreading crown. Large glossy leaves divided into several oblong leaflets are bronze when opening.

Pink flowers, with central red and yellow marks, are borne in cylindrical panicles, 30 to 40cm (12 to 16in) tall, in summer, followed by smooth-skinned fruit.

Flowers a month later than the common chestnut.

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

Only suitable for large gardens. Low maintenance. Full to partial shade.

Country of origin:

  • North west Himalaya

Highdown history:

Information from 'The Chalk Garden' book:

The tree at Highdown was raised from seed from the tree at Kew about 1924. It has grown in the chalk pit into a magnificent tree with pink flowers. Many seedlings have been raised from this tree. Sir Fredrick Stern considered it: “the most decorative flowering tree in the Chalk Pit”.

This tree can no longer be found in the Chalk Pit Garden, but is in the Open Air performance area (in the Lower Garden).

Other interesting information:

Its leaves are used as cattle fodder in parts of Northern India. Its seeds are dried and ground into a bitter flour, called 'tattawakher'. The bitterness is caused by 'saponins' which are rinsed out by thoroughly washing the flour during its preparation. The flour is often mixed with wheat flour to make chapattis and also to make a 'halwa' (Indian sweetmeat) and sometimes is served as a 'dalia', (a type of porridge or gruel) during fasting periods.

It is used in traditional Indian medicine, for the treatment of some skin diseases, rheumatism, as an astringent, acrid and narcotic, and in the relief of headaches.

Its large leaves and flowers make it suitable for use as large-sized bonsai.

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