Posted by Bangzkie Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Aesculus hippocastanum is a large deciduous tree, commonly known as Horse-chestnut or Conker tree.Aesculus hippocastanum is native to a small area in the mountains of the Balkans in southeast Europe, in small areas in northern Greece, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria (Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Balkan mixed forests). It is widely cultivated throughout the temperate world.
Cultivation for its spectacular spring flowers is successful in a range of climatic conditions provided summers are not too hot, with trees being grown as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, the Faroe Islands, and Harstad, Norway. In more southern areas, growth is best in cooler mountain climates. In Britain and Ireland, the nuts are used for the popular children's game conkers. During the two world wars, horse-chestnuts were used as a source of starch which in turn could be used via the Clostridium acetobutylicum fermentation method devised by Chaim Weizmann to produce acetone. This acetone was then used as a solvent which aided in the process of ballistite extrusion into cordite, which was then used in military armaments. The nuts, especially those that are young and fresh, are slightly poisonous, containing alkaloid saponins and glucosides. Although not dangerous to touch, they cause sickness when eaten; consumed by horses, they can cause tremors and lack of coordination.. Some mammals, notably deer, are able to break down the toxins and eat them safely. A selection of fresh conkers from a horse-chestnut. In the past, horse-chestnut seeds were used in France and Switzerland for whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool. They contain a soapy juice, fit for washing of linens and stuffs, for milling of caps and stockings, etc., and for fulling of cloth. For this, 20 horse-chestnut seeds were sufficient for six liters of water. They were peeled, then rasped or dried, and ground in a malt or other mill. The water must be soft, either rain or river water; hard well water will not work. The nuts are then steeped in cold water, which soon becomes frothy, as with soap, and then turns milky white. The liquid must be stirred well at first, and then, after standing to settle, strained or poured off clear. Linen washed in this liquid, and afterwards rinsed in clear running water, takes on an agreeable light sky-blue colour. It takes spots out of both linen and wool, and never damages or injures the cloth.