Red Horse Chestnut, Aesculus carnea ‘Fort McNair’

IMG 2577 1024x768 Red Horse Chestnut, Aesculus carnea ‘Fort McNair’

This Red Horse Chestnut is a tree that would not necessarily have occurred in nature, but this gorgeous cultivar brings together the best of both of it’s parents, the Buckeye, and the Horse Chestnut.

Buckeye and Horse Chestnut trees are in the same family, and they both share a similar leaf pattern and flower type, but with the cross from the Buckeye Asculus pavia, and the Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, a bright 5-8 inch pink or red flower is produced with trademark yellow throats.  I particularly like this flowering variety because the flowers have such a tropical look to them, and because the ‘Fort McNair’ variety was created nearby in DC!

Where Does It Work?

The ‘Fort McNair’ is a tree that will grow in an upright rounded habit up to 30-40 feet tall.  It functions as a moderate shade tree, and has a slow growth pattern, so It can be placed near a house without fear of it causing lots of problems.  It prefers good soil, and while it can work well in full sun, I have discovered that it stresses easily in bright light if the soil is too rocky and dry, shedding most of it’s summer leaves.  The ‘Fort McNair’ is a superior cultivar to many of it’s cousins because of it’s high resistance to leaf diseases.

Plant this tree is zones 4-7.

When Will It Bloom?

The Red Horse Chestnut is a late spring bloomer, and often produces it’s spikes of blooms in the month of May.  The flowers last for several weeks, and are a favorite snack of Hummingbirds, who appreciate the deep throated blossoms and nectar.

My Thoughts:

This tree is a new favorite of mine, and while it does produce leaf and fruit litter (fall nuts), the spring flowers more than make up for the nuisance. Check back soon for more ideas about how to creatively use the nuts in fall displays!

IMG 2576 768x1024 Red Horse Chestnut, Aesculus carnea ‘Fort McNair’

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  1. Georgeann says:

    I have a Fort McNair tree in the back yard. It’s about 4 years old now. I’ve noticed this year that the leaves have areas of brown and seem to be unhealthy looking. It is on a slight slope but not too much. It is getting direct sun for a majority of the day. I read that it is a good tree for not having a lot of leaf pests but I have noticed some ants crawling on it. Do you have suggestions for helping my tree?

    Thank You!

  2. GreenGal says:

    Georgeann, you posted months ago, so I hope you see this… The leaves turning brown is usually from sun exposure and heat; my guess is that your hardiness zone is on the warmer side. Normally the Fort McNairs don’t turn brown until much later in the season here, Zone 4. They’re known for “withering” in the heat by the end of the summer. Perhaps you could try watering it when it begins to get warmer, in the hopes of delaying the browning until later in the season. The ants are likely attracted to the nectar from the spring flowers. Good luck!

  3. Jeanne says:

    We have a ruby red horsechesnut- about four years old; (O’Neils’s Red) Last year the tree was quite lovely. This year it was loaded with new buds- suddenly we saw dead leaves- and on further observation found that someone had eaten every blossom- the fresh twigs were snapped completely off!!
    What or who could have done this horrible deed??
    We haven’t seen any thing- our guess might be a squirrel or a bird- any ideas?

  4. Ken says:

    I have a 6-7 year old ruby red chestnut and every year so far we’ve experienced the same problem Jeanne has, namely eaten blossoms-and the end of the twigs eaten off. Like Jeanne, we’ve never seen any animal but suspect deer or squirrels. This year I have built a huge cage around and over the entire tree. I’m hoping to see some blooms because I never have in the past.
    Has anyone seen what eats these trees?

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