Horse chestnut trees were once a prominent feature of Madison Square Park. And are still familiar sights in public spaces and streets across the world. Natives of Eastern Europe, when mature, these trees can grow to be between 50 and 75 feet, and live up to 300 years.
During mid-spring, the trees blossom with large clusters of fragrant white flowers. These cone-shaped blooms provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for birds and bees. After being pollinated, the flowers transform to green pods covered with spikes. These pods fall to the ground when mature, and split to release their fruit.
Interestingly, Horse chestnuts have a long association with beer brewing. In Germany, they were historically planted by brewers above cellars where the beer was kept cold. The Horse chestnut’s luxuriant foliage created a deep shade above their cellars even on the hottest summer days. This practical solution led to their planting in public spaces and beer halls all over European cities. With the influx of European immigrants to American cities in the late 1800s, Horse chestnuts were planted in abundance as a reminder of their homelands.