The violent nut head Ang Mo cousin of the Angmohdan is the horse chestnut.
As a child I played conkers, a traditional children’s game using the seeds of Horse Chestnut trees. The game is played by two players, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of string: they then take turns striking each other’s conker until one breaks. This was obviously in the days before PlayStations and hand-phones. However, there was fun to be had in finding and collecting conkers, as well as playing the game itself.
The name ‘conkers’ has many origins, however three plausible theories are:
- The dialect word conker, meaning “hard nut”
- Influenced by the verb conquer
- It may come from the French word ‘cogner’ meaning to hit.
The conker or Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a member of the Sapindaceae family, and believe it or not, the conker is the European cousin of the Asian rambutan!
Below is a picture of a Horse-chestnut in its spiky capsule.
Species: Aesculus hippocastanum
Family, Genus & Species. What does that mean?
- Family: is a classification that includes several genus. For example, the Primate family includes all primates like the orangutan and humans.
- Genus: includes several species. For example, all the primitive humans are genus Homo.
- Species: the lowest level of classification. For example, humans are Homo sapiens.
The Sapindaceae Family
Sapindaceae is a family of flowering plants with 1400–2000 species, including maple, horse chestnut, lychee, longan, pitomba, guinip, korlan, rambutan, and pulasan.
The Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
Species: Nephelium lappaceum
Did you know?
- Famous author Roald Dahl was a big conker fan. He said: “A great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore formidable.”
- Unlike many other kinds of chestnut seed, conkers can’t be eaten by humans.
- The first recorded game of conkers was on the Isle of Wight in 1848 and was modelled on a 15th century game played with hazelnuts, known as ‘Cobnuts’.
- Horse chestnut trees originally came from Albania and Greece. They weren’t introduced to the UK until the 1600s.
- Extracts from horse chestnuts have been used to treat malaria, diarrhoea, frostbite and even ringworm, as well as being an ingredient in most sun creams.
- They develop in prickly cases, and are ripe in September and October – the ‘conker’ season.
- The “horse” connection is twofold: (1) Horse Chestnuts were fed to horses in the East as a stimulant and to make their coat shine. (2) The leaf-scars on the twigs have the shape of a horseshoe, including the nail holes.
- The World Conker Championships take place at Ashton, near Peterborough, every October. They began in 1965.
- Some schools have banned children from playing conkers because they are seen as “dangerous weapons”.
- In 1993 ex-Monty Python star Michael Palin was disqualified from an adult competition on the island for baking his conker and soaking it in vinegar.
- It is commonly believed that spiders hate Conkers and will do anything possible to avoid them.
So after all these years I’m still “playing” with conkers. Well its cousin that is.