Here in the UK, the conker season is with us. These gorgeous, rich – red, shiny nuts are the fruit of the horse-chestnut tree [actually poisonous to horses and humans]. This large, deciduous tree is native to the Balkans.
In spring the tree is resplendent with white candles of blossom. These turn to spiky cases, shielding the precious seeds, which then fall out in the autumn, as conkers : well-loved by children and some rather bigger children…yours truly.
When I was a mere girl, we would excitedly hunt for the biggest and shiniest conkers amongst the heaps of golden – brown leaves and play playground conkers with them. This involved suspending them from old shoe laces, or string and taking it in turns to hit our opponents conker. The winner of the competition was the owner of the conker most intact, after the assaults on it.
In her diary,The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank described a horse-chestnut tree that was located outside of The Secret Annexe in the centre of Amsterdam, where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. She wrote:
‘ Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and may I live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.’
Anne of course, sadly did not survive the war, but her inspirational words live on. Her tree survived until 2010, when it was toppled by high winds.
It had produced eleven saplings and these have been distributed around the US. Amongst the sites are The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, New York City – to honour the 9/11 victims, a school at Little Rock, Arkansas, Massachusetts, California, Idaho, Michigan and Washington DC.
So, if you’re reside in the US you may be lucky enough to see one of these famous trees. We Brits will just have to be content to hunt for the conkers!
Have a chilled, lazy Sunday and thanks for taking the time to visit.
Until the next time.