|Leaflets make up the leaf|
The Horse chestnut or conker tree as it is known is one of the most common and easily identifiable trees in Britain and they are very common in London. They are recorded as early as the 16th century in Britain but are native to the mountains of the Balkans. The leaf that you can see in the photo is made up of between 5 and 7 leaflets at the end of a long stalk this is known as palmate. According to my Collins tree guide the name is thought to derive in two parts, one from the use of conkers in 16th Century Turkey to treat ailing horses and two because of the superficial resemblance of the fruit to sweet chestnut of which there is no relation. The conkers are used in some herbal treatments but do not eat them without specialist instruction of how to extract their goodness as they can be poisonous especially when young and fresh. Many of the trees you’ll see around London are suffering from blight or bleeding canker, you may see it as it browns the leaves which will prematurely drop or as sticky liquid protruding from blemishes on the trunk. It works at cutting off the water supply to the crown and methods are being tested to help the tree fight the disease. In some cases the trees have been known to recover of their own accord so don’t be tempted to cut the tree down at the first sign of bleeding canker.