Pollarded horse chestnuts

I spent a very pleasant afternoon in Worcester the other day, including a visit to the cathedral. I mention this, because it’s possible to walk down from there to the river, along the side of which stands a row of horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum).

With impressive girths, these must be of considerable age – but they have been kept within a reasonable height (say 8m) by pollarding. In other words, the canopy has been regularly cut back, so is now dense and spreading rather than making the usual narrow tiered pyramid.

Leaves of the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Leaves of the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

At this time of year, you would expect to see the trees laden with their conkers still in their distinctive spiny cases. But close inspection revealed none of these – pollarding prevents flowering – so I was able to make an identification only by their handsome, handlike leaves. I have never seen the trees treated in this way, and none of the RHS books I’ve consulted suggest it as a possibility. But it certainly gives food for thought. Under normal circumstances, these trees are far too large for anything but country estates.

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