Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Conkers

As Malcolm and I sat having our coffee by Mapperley Reservoir this morning with the sun shining on us, we were conscious of the breeze blowing through the the trees around us. This breeze shook the Horse Chestnut trees nearby, dislodging the conkers which thumped to the ground below.
Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are familiar to us all and their shiny, reddish-brown seeds - known to everyone as conkers - are a sign that Autumn has certainly arrived.
Conkers are poisonous to many animals - humans included - and in the case of Horses, if eaten, they can cause muscular tremours and disruptions to coordination.
Some animals are able to cope with the toxins contained within the conker. Deer for example, can break down the alkaloid saponins and glucosides which would cause us such problems. An old wives tale has it that placing conkers around the home, will repel spiders and while the saponins may indeed have some effect on insects, there is no evidence that spiders are in the least bit put off by them. A pity, because if they did work, I would have collected them all and surrounded the house with them.
Just as a footnote, it turns out that Horse Chestnuts belong to the same family as Lychee..!
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