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Variegated European Horse Chestnut

Aesculus hippocastanum 

‘Wisselink’ 

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This rare and beautiful tree was discovered by chance by William Wisselink, who spotted a seedling near the village of Aalten in the Eastern Netherlands.

 

'Wisselink' is slow-growing, taking up to 50 years to reach a height of 12 metres. The large, palmate leaves are green-veined and silvery-white, turning a little greener with age. In late spring, large, upright clusters of creamy-white flowers are born, followed by prickly, green fruits.  It stands out well against a dark background, such as our yew hedges.

 

Like all Horse Chestnuts, this variety can be affected by Leaf blotch fungus Guignardia aesculi and / or attacked by the Horse Chestnut leaf-mining moth, Cameraria ohridella. The latter was initially sighted in the 1970s in Macedonia, and reached the UK in 2002 where it has rapidly spread across the British Isles ever since at a rate of about 30km per year.

 

The moth’s caterpillars feed on the mesophyll, the spongy and palisade cells between the upper and lower epidermises of the leaves. The main job of the palisade cells is the absorption of carbon dioxide and light so that photosynthesis can take place. Scientific research reveals that the leaf-mining moth can reduce the total photosynthetic capacity of a tree by 15-30% which therefore substantially affects the tree's ability to make its own food via photosynthesis and severely damaging it’s health yet not directly killing it.

 

The effect on the appearance of the trees in the late summer months can be profound, with brown or white blotches developing between the leaf veins.  A heavily infested tree will drop its leaves early, and the size of it’s conkers may be considerably smaller.

 

The gardeners at Melbourne hall are meticulous in attempting to keep this beautiful and understated tree looking its very best.  Each year they take great care to collect all the fallen leaves and burn them regularly to eliminate further damage.

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All photography copyright © Andrea Jones

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