Aesculus

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For the Ancient Greek playwright, see Aeschylus.
Aesculus
Aesculus hippocastanum flori.jpg
Aesculus hippocastanum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Subfamily: Hippocastanoideae
Genus: Aesculus
L.
Species
Aesculus glabra Ohio buckeye
Flower of Aesculus x carnea, the red Horse Chestnut

The genus Aesculus (/ˈɛskjʊləs/[1] or /ˈskjʊləs/) comprises 13–19 species of trees and shrubs native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, with 6 species native to North America and 7–13 species native to Eurasia; there are also several hybrids. Aesculus exhibits a classical arcto-Tertiary distribution.[a] The genus has traditionally been treated in the ditypic family Hippocastanaceae along with Billia,[3] but recent phylogenetic analysis of morphological[4] and molecular data[5] has caused this family, along with the Aceraceae (Maples and Dipteronia), to be included in the soapberry family (Sapindaceae).

Linnaeus named the genus Aesculus after the Roman name for an edible acorn. Common names for these trees include "buckeye" and "horse chestnut". Some are also called white chestnut or red chestnut (as in some of the Bach flower remedies). In Britain, they are sometimes called conker trees because of their link with the game of conkers, played with the seeds, also called conkers. Aesculus seeds were traditionally eaten, after leaching, by the Jōmon people of Japan over about four millennia, until 300 AD.[6]

Description[edit]

Aesculus species have stout shoots with resinous, often sticky, buds; opposite, palmately divided leaves, often very large—to 65 cm (26 in) across in the Japanese horse chestnut Aesculus turbinata. The seeds of the Aesculus are traditionally used in a game called conkers in Europe. Species are deciduous or evergreen. Flowers are showy, insect- or bird-pollinated, with four or five petals fused into a lobed corolla tube, arranged in a panicle inflorescence. Flowering starts after 80–110 growing degree days. The fruit matures to a capsule, 2–5 cm (25321 3132 in) diameter, usually globose, containing one to three seeds (often erroneously called a nut) per capsule. Capsules containing more than one seed result in flatness on one side of the seeds. The point of attachment of the seed in the capsule (hilum) shows as a large circular whitish scar. The capsule epidermis has "spines" (botanically: prickles) in some species, while other capsules are warty or smooth. At maturity, the capsule splits into three sections to release the seeds.[7][8][9]

The species of Aesculus include:

Cultivation[edit]

The most familiar member of the genus worldwide is the common horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum. The yellow buckeye Aesculus flava (syn. A. octandra) is also a valuable ornamental tree with yellow flowers, but is less widely planted. Among the smaller species, the bottlebrush buckeye Aesculus parviflora also makes a very interesting and unusual flowering shrub. Several other members of the genus are used as ornamentals, and several horticultural hybrids have also been developed, most notably the red horse chestnut Aesculus × carnea, a hybrid between A. hippocastanum and A. pavia.

Use in alternative medicine[edit]

Aesculus has been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies,[10] a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However according to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ This designation has as a part of it a term, 'Tertiary', that is now discouraged as a formal geochronological unit by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.[2]
  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ Ogg, James G.; Gradstein, F. M; Gradstein, Felix M. (2004). A geologic time scale 2004. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78142-6. 
  3. ^ Hardin, JW. 1957. A revision of the American Hippocastanaceae I. Brittonia 9:145-171.
  4. ^ Judd, WS, RW Sanders, MJ Donoghue. 1994. Angiosperm family pairs. Harvard Papers in Botany. 1:1-51.
  5. ^ Harrington, Mark G.; Edwards, Karen J.; Johnson, Sheila A.; Chase, Mark W.; Gadek, Paul A. (Apr–Jun 2005). "Phylogenetic inference in Sapindaceae sensu lato using plastid matK and rbcL DNA sequences". Systematic Botany 30 (2): 366–382. doi:10.1600/0363644054223549. JSTOR 25064067. 
  6. ^ Harlan, Jack R. (1995). The Living Fields: Our Agricultural Heritage (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-521-40112-7. Harlan cites Akazawa, T & Aikens, CM, Prehistoric Hunter-Gathers in Japan (1986), Univ. Tokyo Press; and cites Aikens, CM & Higachi, T, Prehistory of Japan (1982), NY Academic Press.
  7. ^ Hardin, JW. 1957. A revision of the American Hippocastanaceae I. Brittonia 9:145-171
  8. ^ Hardin, JW. 1957. A revision of the American Hippocastanaceae II. Brittonia 9:173-195
  9. ^ Hardin, JW. 1960. A revision of the American Hippocastanaceae V, Species of the Old World. Brittonia 12:26-38
  10. ^ D. S. Vohra (1 June 2004). Bach Flower Remedies: A Comprehensive Study. B. Jain Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-7021-271-3. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Flower remedies". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved September 2013. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Aesculus at Wikimedia Commons Data related to Aesculus at Wikispecies