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Aesculus indica (Indian horse chestnut)

A relative of the common horse chestnut, the Indian horse chestnut from the Himalaya is a spectacular early summer flowering tree, which produces smaller seeds than the common horse chestnut, making it less useful for the 'conker' player.
Indian horse chestnut trees at Kew Gardens

Indian horse chestnuts at Kew Gardens

Species information

Scientific name: 

Aesculus indica (Camb.) Hook.

Common name: 

Indian horse chestnut

Conservation status: 

Not yet assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria. In Nepal, its limited distribution potentially places it at risk from deforestation, and the collection of fruits for sale is a further cause for concern.


Deciduous forest on mountain slopes, and in moist, shady valleys.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

The seeds (nuts) of the Indian horse chestnut contain a toxin called aesculin, which is poisonous to humans and many other animals.


Genus: Aesculus

About this species

Although quite similar at first glance, Aesculus indica is usually a slightly smaller tree than the common horse chestnut (A. hippocastanum), and differs in having smooth, flaky, grey-green (rather than red-brown) bark. It also flowers later, its pinkish-white flowers appearing in strikingly beautiful spikes in July, making it a really handsome tree for a medium to large garden (it can grow to 20–30 m tall, so is not suitable for a small space).

Aesculus indica is native to the lower slopes of the north-west Himalaya, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to western Nepal. In the Himalaya it is one of the dominant trees of deciduous forests, growing alongside oaks, maples, birches and laurels. It was introduced to Britain in 1851 by Colonel Henry Bunbury (a friend of Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew from 1865-1885), who planted seeds in his family’s Suffolk garden.


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