It grows very quickly and has a particularly thick canopy, which confines it to large gardens. The deciduous leaves are dark green, with a long petiole, palmate, with 5 or 7 serrated leaflets. Its fruit with a spiny capsule contains one or two large seeds called “brown”, smooth, with a lighter spot, round and hard that looks a bit like a pebble but is toxic.
It is formed in a leathery capsule, bristling with spikes. Do not confuse its fruits with those of the chestnut tree! Unlike the latter, chestnuts are not eaten, their extreme bitterness makes them unsuitable for consumption.
The bark and fruits of the buckeyes contain aesculin, an alkaline substance known for its febrifuge qualities and especially its vaso-constrictive properties. Thus “horse chestnut extract” is used in the pharmacopoeia to treat congestive conditions of the venous system: varicose veins and heavy legs but also hemorrhoids.
Under which exposure should I plant the buckeyes?
The buckeyes can adapt without too much difficulty to all types of soil, preferably deep, rich, fresh and humusy. It will appreciate a temperate climate and a sunny exposure but not a hot one because it is sensitive to summer drought.
Where to plant the buckeyes ?
As a general rule, buckeyes or poppies can be planted in any deep, well-drained soil that remains cool even in summer.
They are all hardy enough to grow anywhere in France and Belgium, but they dread the seaside because of the sea spray. They have a preference for areas with well marked seasons: cold winter and hot summer.
The buckeyess are planted in the sun or half-shade. Only the white poppies can thrive in full shade.
When to plant the buckeyes ?
The multiplication of buckeyes can be done by sowing after winter stratification of the seeds (in this case first germinate in a pot), by separating the suckers, or by a graft in slit in winter.
Planting is planned in the fall.
- Immerse the pot of your new Aesculus tree in a bucket of water for a few minutes to rewet the root ball
- Dig a hole twice as deep and wider than the volume of the tree’s root ball
- Throw a handful or two of ripe compost into the bottom of the hole
- If your soil is heavy, you can add some gravel to improve drainage
- Begin to “break up” the root ball a bit to free up the roots. Do this gently by hand or with a small claw to avoid damaging the roots
- Place the remaining root ball at the bottom of the hole, spreading the roots well
- Fill the hole with the extracted and loosened soil
- Gently pack the soil around the tree with your hands (not your feet!)
- Apply a watering can of 10 liters of water at the foot to reduce the risk of “air pockets” between the roots and the soil
- Apply a mulch to protect the young tree from drought or plant a few small ground cover plants (Bugle, woodruff, Glechoma, Geranium macrorrhizum, …) directly at the foot of the tree.
Culture and maintenance of the buckeyes
Remember to water the Indian buckeyes regularly, especially during the first years of its establishment. It hates dry soils in summer.
The Indian buckeyes does not tolerate stress such as drastic pruning, injuries to the canopy and roots, drought or pollution. In the city, it is often a victim of diseases or pests, however this does not prevent it from maintaining its vigor.
Diseases, pests and parasites
The Indian buckeyes is a tree often planted in the city that suffers a certain number of parasitic attacks. However, defoliation causes very little loss of vigor because the tree is able to increase the conductive surfaces and sap flow to compensate for the loss of leaf area.
Red spot disease
During wet and cold springs, Indian buckeyes are susceptible to black rot or red spot disease (Guignardia aesculi).
In early July, irregular yellowish leaf spots appear which turn brown with a yellow halo, followed by drying and premature leaf drop. Black spots appear on the spots in wet weather.
This common disease is especially damaging on young trees. Treat their foliage with copper when the buds open, then collect and burn the fallen leaves.
The buckeyes leafminer (Cameraria ohridella) has been causing significant damage since the early 1990s on large buckeyes of Aesculus hippocastanum, but also on Aesculus pavia and sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). A. x carnea does not allow the caterpillar to complete its cycle.
Tiny cream-colored ringed caterpillars bore into the leaf blade forming rather circular reddish-brown patches resulting in the fall of the foliage during the summer. A small brown butterfly of 3 to 5 mm with fringed wingtips, lays on the foliage 1 to 3 generations from April to late fall. The caterpillars pupate inside the leaves during the winter.
Control methods consist of collecting and burning the leaves to eliminate the chrysalises and installing nesting boxes for the chickadees that love these caterpillars on the trunk at 3 m high. Glue bands can be put around the trunk under the carpenters and 4 inches below in order to trap the female butterflies which fly with difficulty. These continue to emit pheromones that attract the males to the trap.
The oozing canker (Phytophtora) causes an oozing on the bark which leads to the death of the tree if the roots are affected.
It seems that the occurrence of this disease is favored by poor growing conditions. Copper sprays can be tried, but without guarantee.
The mealy bug Pulvinaria regalis invades the trunk, but causes little damage. A lack of water or salt poisoning can also be responsible for a browning of the leaf edges which appear burnt and slightly curled.