Which Chestnut Should I Choose?
Horse Chestnuts produce inedible nuts called conkers. Sweet Chestnuts produce edible nuts.
Aesculus, the ornamental horse chestnut, comes in a range of sizes, flowering colours and conker-value.
The classic Wild Horse Chestnut (Conker tree), Aesculus hippocastanum is the largest and reaches 40m after a hundred years.
Its exotic candelabra-like flowers are creamy-white with a golden yellow spot that darkens to red as the bloom ages.
Red Horse Chestnut trees, Aesculus x carnea 'Briottii' can touch 20 metres and has vibrant red and apricot flowers.
The conkers are inferior to wild ones, with less spiny husks and smaller yields, so less mess.
White Horse Chestnut trees, Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii', are a little larger than Briotti, and are sterile with no conkers, so better for planting along drives and avenues; it's a splendid shade tree in pastures and paddocks too.
Its white flowers are more profuse than the wild horse chestnut, wonderful up close, so try to plant one where you pass by.
Edible Sweet Chestnuts, Castanea sativa, are much more upright than a typical horse chestnut but grow to similar tall heights, and produce yellowy/green catkins followed by nutritious nuts. In the kitchen, they are likened to a protein rich grain, rather than a nut.
They need full sun, fertile soil, and will not grow well on chalk.