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Xanthoceras sorbifolia and Aesculus hippocastanum

Xanthoceras sorbifolia and Aesculus hippocastanum
Aesculus hippocastanum

A big thank you to Douglas Justice for writing today's entry! – Daniel

The similarity of Xanthoceras sorbifolia and Aesculus hippocastanum is not evident until their husky capsules begin to split open. There is an obvious resemblance, but the genera are classified in separate subfamilies of Sapindaceae. Aesculus – the classical name for a kind of oak with edible acorns – was the name given by Linnaeus to the horse chestnuts and buckeyes. His reasons for applying this name to a genus that is so un-oak-like and whose fruits are poisonous, are evidently lost. Not so Xanthoceras, which means “yellow horn,” in reference to the small yellow projections on flowers of this species. See the previous BPotD entry on Xanthoceras here.

The glossy seeds of the horse chestnut are rich in toxic saponins. The seed and its extracts have been used for medicating horses suffering from gas, children's games (“conkers”), production textile whiteners and military armaments (see this excellent wikipedia entry). According to Ken Fern (Plants for a Future), “saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts.” The seeds of Xanthoceras are reported to be quite edible.


Xanthoceras sorbifolia - Z6 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Xanthoceras sorbifolia - Z5-8 - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk

Aesculus hippocastanum - Z3 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Aesculus hippocastanum - Z3-8 - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

Facciola, CORNUCOPIA II (Kampong Publications) calls it Shiny-leaf yellowhorn and Northern macadamia, says

"Flowers and leaves are used for food. The nut is...quite sweet. The flavor is thought by some to be reminiscent of a macadamia nut"

I still am so awed by nature's color palette. Such beautiful photography...thank you

...ah...the sweet memories of youth...early autumn..running from st. pats school in penna. as soon as the bell rang... to the neighborhoods that had those huge horse-chestnut trees...to gather those beautiful gems of the trees that had fallen during our classes...to hold in our hands these so very smooth and shiny brown fruits....

Since a few people have asked me, these were photographed by me.

the forms in nature are so inspiring! What a great photo of a fantastic plant. I often collect the horsechestnuts for no other reason than that the pods are so outrageously beautiful and strange -- and the nuts themselves like polished wood objects of beauty.

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