Horse-Chesnut, AEscu--lus, L. a genus of exotic plants, natives of the East, consisting of four species : the principal of these is the Hippocastanum, or Common Horse-chesnut. It thrives best in rich fat land, but will also flourish on clayey and marley soils.
The horse-chesnut was brought from Asia to Europe, in the year 1550 : it is propagated from the nuts, which are gathered in autumn, and set in drills, about three inches asunder. In the spring, young plants will appear, which, at the end of twelve months, are to be taken up, the top roots shortened, and afterwards planted in a nursery. As soon as they are. of a proper size to be finally transplanted, they should be carefully removed, and set in large holes level with the surface of the ground, all the fibres being spread, and covered with fine mould. A stake should then be placed, to protect them from high winds, and the depredations of cattle, till they are of a sufficient size to defend themselves.
This tree grows so rapidly that, in the course of a few years, it be-comes large enough, in groves and alleys, to afford a good shade during the heat of summer, when it is in full bloom. - Its fruit furnishes a grateful food to horses, and has been successfully employed for fattening cattle, the tallow of which it renders uncommonly firm, espe-cially when mixed with ground barley. The milk obtained from cows fed with it, is also said to be richer than that produced by any other aliment. The nuts have likewise been used with advantage in feeding poultry ; but they are unwholesome for hogs. Deer are peculiarly fond of this fruit; which has also been usefully substituted for soap; because, on steeping and boiling it in water, it makes a good lather, preparatory to the use of that more expensive article. There are, besides, various other purposes to which horse-chesnuts may be rendered subservient in the arts and manufactures.
Dr. Bohmer informs us, that M. Sprogel, an ingenious artisan of Gera, in Saxony, has discovered a method of preparing a paste, or size, from wild chesnuts, which may be used preferably to that made of wheaten-fiour, by shoe-makers, book-binders, card-manu-fa&urers, and especially by paper-hangers, who consume, or rather waste, considerable quantities of grain, in their respective branches of trade. With this design, the nuts are first cleared of the hard shell, as well as the inner skin 5 then cut into three or four parts ; dried hard in an oven ; and afterwards reduced to fine flour, either in a mill or mortar: rain-water is next poured on them,and the whole is properly stirred till it acquire a due consistence. This paste possesses a great advantage over the common size; as no moths, or vermin, will breed in the articles cemented with the former ; but as it is apt to become mouldy, or sour, in 48 hours, it will be necessary to dissolve a small portion of alum in the water before it is mixed, or to employ equal quantities of chesnut and wheaten-flour: such precau-tion, however, is unnecessary, when it is intended for immediate use.
Prof. Beckmann states, that horse-chesnuts yield, by distillation, a spirituous liquor, which, notwithstanding its bitter taste, may frequently serve as a substitute for alkohol; and, though 20 pounds of this fruit produce only three ounces of a pure spirit, yet it is equal to that obtained from wine lees, and the remainder still affords food for cattle.
Prof, Leonhardi observes, in his Economical Pocket-look for 1793 (in German), that the prickly husks of the horse-chesnut may be advantageously employed in tanning leather ; and, when burnt to coal, they are said to produce an excellent black water-colour. - Suc-kow has made experiments with the brown glossy shell of this fruit; from which it appears, that, when bruised and boiled in water, with the addition of a little pot-ash, it makes a saturated dark-brown dye, which imparted to cloth previously dipped in a solution of green vitriol, a yellow brown, and to that prepared in alum-water, a faint red-brown colour. - According to Damboukney, both the branches and leaves communicate a good brown in dyeing.
Rugkr (in his German Pocket-look for Painters) gives the following recipe for preparing an excellent brown water-colour: Take the smooth, ripe shells of the horse-chesnut, reduce them to a coarse powder, and boil them for several hours in water; next filter the liquor through flannel, and let it stand till the colouring particles subside; then carefully decant the clear fluid, and dry the sediment. Even in this simple manner, the decoction afforded a beautiful brown colour; which, however, was considerably improved, on adding a small portion of gum arabic.
The wood of the horse-chesnut is, in every respect, equal to that of the common chesnut; and, as the former thrives luxuriantly in coppices, it deserves to be more generally cultivated, with the view of raising timber for building. Indeed, it is highly probable that the fruit of this valuable tree might be so much improved by engrafting and inoculating, that the nuts may, in process of time, be divested of their peculiar bitterness and astrin-gency. - See farther, pp. 512 and foll, of our first volume.
Horse-Chesnut. - The bark of this tree is, on the Continent, occasionally substituted for the Peruvian ; and it likewise that an extract may be prep: from the ripe fruit of the horse-nut, which answers all the purposes of that obtained from the expensive foreign drug. For this communication, we are indebted to Dr. FUCHS, of Jena; who directs the chesnuts to be deprived of their prickly husks, and an extract to be prepared from them, in the usual manner.