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Fatal Attraction
Posted: 11th April 2008

Photo  Copyright 2004 G. Bradley
Photo: G. Bradley

Spring is with us, and leaf buds on trees are ready to burst open. One of the first trees to come into leaf is the horse chestnut.

Being first into leaf does give it some advantages. If it is surrounded by other trees it benefits from all the available light, as none of the other trees are able to block out the sun with their leaves. But being first also carries some risk. Winter is only just ending, and it could still bite back with some late frosts which would damage the tender leaves. Worse still are the dangers from the insect world!

Do you remember when you were a kid, how you and your friends would pull off the horse chestnut buds and throw them at each other so they would stick to your clothes. Ever wonder why they were so sticky? Many species of insect like to lay their eggs in the buds of trees. The bud helps to protect the eggs from predators, and when they hatch, the young larvae can feed on the fresh, juicy leaves inside.

Being the first into bud makes the horse chestnut more vulnerable to attack than some other species of tree, so to counter this threat the tree coats its buds with a sticky glue. If any insects are brave enough to land on the buds they are instantly immobilised in this treacle-like sap.

Trees of Britain and Europe
Photographic identification guide to over 300 species of tree found in Britain and Europe.
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Related Links:
UK Safari Horse Chestnut Pages
How the Horse Chestnut got it's Name
UK Safari Tree Section
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