Exploring horse chestnut flowers


Even at the bud stage of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), you can clearly see developing leaves and flowers and by mid-May to early June, horse chestnut trees are normally in full flower. It is a spectacular sight with many thousands of flowers in large pyramidal inflorescences; often known as ‘candles’.

KS2 and KS3 pupils can find plenty of interest exploring these flowers. Using their knowledge of flower structure and function they can:

  • become aware of the relationship between the structure, colour and movement of parts of a flower
  • investigate aspects of pollination
  • hone their ability to predict
  • develop their data collecting skills
  • practise scientific drawing

At Juniper Hall Field Centre, horse chestnut flowers as a basis for investigation with students. This Case Study details an inexpensive investigation that offers cross-curricular links with maths and art and helps to consolidate their knowledge and understanding of parts of a flower.

It was encouraging to see how the pupils taking part in these activities became much more aware of the relationship between the structure, colour and movement of different floral parts as well as the behaviour of visiting insects. The pupils were also stimulated to take an interest in what happens to other flowers. We are grateful to staff and pupils from The Cavendish School (London NW1), and from Queensgate School (London SW7), who helped collect these data and for allowing us to publish their results in this article.

Anne Bebbington
(FSC, Juniper Hall, Surrey)

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