Can you eat conkers? And other conker facts

Child with a handful of conkers
Look out for gleaming brown conkers under horse chestnut trees in autumn. (Photo: Michael Heffernan/WTML)

It’s the time of year when we all go bonkers for conkers! Get the lowdown on these super seeds.

What is a conker?

Conkers are the glossy brown seeds of the horse chestnut tree. They grow in green spiky cases and fall to the ground in autumn - the shells often split open to reveal the shiny conker inside. Look out for them in parks, streets and woods.

Can you eat conkers?

Conker in green shell
Conkers are poisonous to people and dogs. (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

No. It's not a good idea to eat conkers because they contain a chemical called aesculin, which is poisonous. You’d have to eat an awful lot of conkers before it killed you, but you’d probably be sick.

Conkers are poisonous to most animals too, so don’t let your dog play fetch with them. Some animals, such as deer and wild boar, can eat them. But not horses, even though the tree is named after them

The best way to eat conkers is to make our yummy chocolate conkers recipe. Don’t worry – it doesn’t involve any real conkers!

Do conkers keep spiders away?

Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes people put conkers around their homes to scare off spiders, but scientists haven’t been able to prove it works. Try it yourself, what happens?

They might not keep spiders away, but there is a chemical in conkers that wards off moths. So you could also try putting some in your wardrobe to stop your woollies getting munched.

Sweet chestnuts and conkers – what’s the difference?

Conker cases change from bright green, to yellow, to brown. (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

Sweet chestnut and horse chestnut trees aren't actually related, but their seeds are similar. Both come in greens shells, but conker cases have short, stumpy spikes all over. Inside, the conkers are round and glossy.

Sweet chestnut cases have lots of very fine spikes – so they look like little green hedgehogs! Open up the sweet chestnut and you’ll find two or three nuts inside. And unlike conkers, chestnuts are really tasty when roasted.

Sweet chestnut in shell
Sweet chestnut cases are covered in fine spikes (Photo: Bruce Beattie/WTML)

What can you do with conkers?

Loads of things! You can play conkers, get creative with our conker crafts, or make these kooky conker models. They're also great for helping younger children with maths -use them to make counting, sorting and weighing fun.

We'd love to see how you get creative with conkers. Share your snaps using #NatureDetectives.

Discover the magic of the seasons!

Woodland Trust family welcome pack

Do your kids love conkers, crunchy leaves and curious creatures? If so, you can join the Woodland Trust to get inspiration all year round.

Your kids will get their own exciting post - activity packs bursting with art ideas, wildlife facts, puzzles and stickers. As members, you'll also help us save the UK's trees and woods for people and wildlife.

Find out more about Woodland Trust family membership.

What's your favourite conker activity?

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