A Buckeye tree is a prominent ornamental plant that is renowned for the beautiful candelabra-like flower clusters. Read on to find more facts about it and the way to grow it well.
Buckeye trees have approximately 13 species, one of which is the popular Ohio variety.
The Ohio Buckeye tree, also known as Aesculus glabra, is the symbol of Ohio State and Ohio State University’s intercollegiate athletics.
Some experts say that this tree makes great landscaping in any large yard because of the pumpkin-orange fall leaves, the greenish-yellow spring flowers, and a lot of rich-brown nuts.
Nevertheless, you have to be cautious as the nuts are inedible. In fact, they are toxic to humans and cattle. You can only use them in crafts.
The Ohio Buckeye tree is native to lower Great Plains regions and the Midwestern of the United States. It is also common in Ohio, which explains the name.
You will be likely to find it along streams and rivers where it can thrive well.
You might be wondering why this species is called the Buckeye tree. Well, this plant got its title due to the nuts that similar to the tone and appearance of a deer’s eye.
The Buckeye tree is deciduous, meaning it sheds its leaves seasonally. It also has opposite leaves with leaflets radiating from a point that looks like spread fingers on a hand.
Moreover, the flowers have four or five fused petals, and they are bisexual.
Besides having striking leaves and flowers, the Buckeye tree also has distinctive fruits that come in the shape of dry capsules with hard leathery husks.
Some of the husks can be smooth while others might be weakly spiny. The fruits of this plant will turn brown in fall.
They will split into three parts, and show one to three glossy brown seeds. Bear in mind that they are not edible, so it can be dangerous if you insist on consuming them.
Although the wood is pale and light, which is not suitable for making furniture, you can use it for paper, craft, and novelty item production.
The Buckeye tree is one of the first plants whose flowers bloom in early spring. Later, you will find green fruits to replace them in the summer. Eventually, it drops its foliage as soon as the fall comes.
Most Buckeye trees are small and even considered as a shrub. However, some species like the Yellow variety can reach a height of more than 50 feet, making it become an inappropriate option for a yard with limited space.
Ohio Buckeye Tree Facts
In addition to the distinctive features, there are other interesting facts about the Buckeye tree that you need to know.
The Buckeye tree is notorious for being poisonous. Even all parts of it are toxic due to its components consisting of glycoside aesculin, saponin aescin, and alkaloids.
In addition, the seeds contain tannic acid, which can be harmful to both cattle and humans.
If you happen to eat Buckeye fruit or leaves, you might experience vomiting, muscle weakness and paralysis, diarrhea, dilated pupils, paralysis, and depression.
For this reason, many people do not grow the Buckeye tree to protect their livestock. Due to the toxic components found in it, Native Americans usually ground it into powder to stun fish on ponds.
Did you know that the leaves of the Buckeye tree smell bad? Well, you might not notice it. Try crushing them, and you will know how atrocious the odor is.
Buckeye Trees are Not Suitable for Front Yards
The most common disease that a Buckeye may suffer is leaf blotch. Well, it might not kill the tree. However, it makes the leaves get a scorched appearance. Eventually, it will be completely defoliated.
For this reason, this plant is not suitable for any front yard because it will ruin the curb appeal when it gets defoliated.
Easy Come, Easy Go
As stated above, Buckeye has beautiful bisexual flowers, and they become the first ones that bloom in spring.
Unfortunately, they go as soon as they come. When fall comes, Buckeye foliage becomes the first species that drop.
This also becomes the reason why you cannot find more buckeyes any longer now. The dead flowers, leaves, and spiny fruit always fall from them, creating such a mess.
The Soil has to be Moist
The key success of growing a Buckeye tree lies in the conditions of the soil.
It has to be well-drained, deep enough because they might turn into a gigantic plant someday, and moist, meaning it is not wet, and not too dry, either.
Types of Buckeye Trees
Red Buckeye Tree
This Buckeye tree, as the name suggests, has conspicuous large red inflorescences that bloom in early spring. Therefore, other names for this variety is Scarlet Buckeye and Woolly Buckeye.
You can find this Red Buckeye from south-central Texas to southern Illinois, Gulf Coasts and east to the Atlantic, and in many regions in Arkansas.
The Red Buckeye tends to thrive well in the understory or margin of mixed woodlands.
They are also great in valleys and along stream banks, and on lower slopes that usually get full or partial sun, which results in deep, moist soils with good drainage.
This Buckeye variety is a shrub that can grow up to 20 feet or more, which makes it become a small tree. It begins to produce flowers and fruits when it reaches a foot tall, which happens around its third year.
Once the tree is mature, it produces a dependable fruit load. The seeds will ultimately collapse to the dirt and may reveal a root and leave if they keep being moist.
Just like other types of Buckeye trees, the seeds of this red variety is also poisonous. Therefore, you should not eat them.
Yellow Buckeye Tree
The Yellow Buckeye tree is stunning. It has beautiful spring blooms, thick bark, and alluring orange fall color.
Many people use it as a focal point, a screen, or a shade due to the spreading canopy that can block sunlight while adding visual interest.
This type of Buckeye tree grows in Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. It grows up to 60’ to 75’ in the term of height and spreads around 30’.
This variety has a medium growth rate since the height increases 13” to 24” per year if it lives in an ideal condition, which entails six hours of direct, unfiltered sun each day, and moist soil.
Surprisingly, it can also thrive in loamy, acidic, rich, sandy, clay, and wet ones.
Buckeye Tree Identification
Since the Buckeye tree is toxic, you need to know how to identify this plant so that you can avoid consuming the fruit or leaves.
Buckeye Tree Leaf
This species features toothed leaves with five to seven leaflets that are palmately compound, spread in the opposite position.
The leaflets can grow up to 5.9 inches long, and the petiole is long.
Buckeye Tree Flowers
The colors of the flowers are varied depending on the variety. They can be light yellow to yellow-green, or as red as rose, which is typical of Red Horse chestnut.
However, they have one thing in common. They bloom in April or May and turn into large dark-brown capsules by fall.
This species is renowned for its inflorescences that grow upright like candelabra. They can grow up to 3.9 to 5.9 inches high.
The Buckeye tree produces distinctive fruits that you will not fail to notice. They are fleshy, green capsules covered with few spines.
Inside each of them is a glossy, brown seed, which is notorious for being toxic.
Buckeye Tree Growth Rate
The growth rate of the Buckeye tree is varied depending on the variety. But they typically grow at a slow to medium rate. The height increases from less than 12” to 24” per year.
How to Grow a Buckeye Tree
Growing a Buckeye tree is relatively easy as it requires low maintenance and can put up with a wide array of soil conditions.
As a good rule of thumb, begin to plant this tree in spring or fall. Although it can grow in various kinds of soils, make sure that it is not too dry.
More importantly, find a place that can gain full sun or at the slightest partial covering.
When planting a Buckeye, dig a deep hole so that the soil can accommodate the root ball. Set the tree in it, and lay a flat tool handle across it just to ensure that it is even.
To prevent the tree from being rotting, you can try backfilling the hole with unamended soil. Because you only need some soil supplements when the spring comes.
If it does not rain for a long period, water the tree deeply, and keep doing it once a week until it is established and begins to grow.
Add a layer of mulch around it to make the soil stay moist. Do not forget to incorporate a few inches of space around the trunk to prevent the tree from rotting.
Despite being poisonous, the Buckeye tree is a nice plant that provides visual interest for the landscaping. More importantly, it will not add more chores because it does not require thorough maintenance.