Thursday, April 24, 2014

Buckeye, Red and White

Ohio Buckeye
Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, is the first tree to open its leaves in spring.  Last week you could find them easily among competing species that were still thinking about opening their buds.  Buckeye leaves are palmate with 5 finely toothed leaflets, rarely 7.  If you crush the leaves, they release a strong foul odor, leading to its common name, "fetid buckeye."  The seed capsule which matures in August is rough and somewhat spiky.
In mid-August we always trek the valley to collect the buckeye's nut-like fruit.  The trees are easy to spot then as they are the first species to lose their leaves.  After a few weeks, the capsule splits open revealing one or two nuts inside.  According to folklore, the buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and carrying one brings good luck (so they say).  Rub the nut along the side of your nose and it will develop a nice oiled sheen. They can also be strung like beads once dried.  The bark and seeds are poisonous, containing tannins and a narcotic glucoside.  Gray squirrels will occasionally eat them and survive, which is no surprise to those of us who have seen them eat the painted siding of our house.

Buckeye - eye of a buck

Ohio Buckeye
Red Buckeye

Another member of the horsechestnut family (Hippocastanaceae) is the red buckeye, Aesculus pavia.   It is generally smaller and more bush-like and as you have guessed, it has red flowers.   Beautiful, upright clusters of dark-red tubular flowers, each cluster 4 to 7 inches long, appear in the spring.   We have only one at Bull Mills as opposed to hundreds of Ohio buckeye.  How it got here, struggling to survive in a rocky drainage, is a mystery.

For More Details go to:
Ohio buckeye - illinoiswildflowers,
Red buckeye - illinoiswildflowers,

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