Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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Plant of the Week - The Buckeye Tree

In honor of the BIG10 and 2023 The Ohio State Buckeyes football season, our plant picks this week would be Buckeye Trees!  

Aesculus glabra – Ohio Buckeye

-25-40’ / rounded / yellow orange fall color / State tree of Ohio / sun to part shade

Aesculus pavia – Red Buckeye

-10-20’ / rounded / red flowers in spring / sun to part shade

Aesculus flava – Yellow Buckeye

-60-70’ / yellowish spring flowers / orange fall color / not bothered by foliar diseases

Aesculus parviflora – Bottlebrush Buckeye

-6-15’ / white flowers late spring – early summer / tolerates shade

Aesculus carnea – Red Horse-Chestnut (cross between horse-chestnut and red buckeye)

-30-40’ / rounded / red flowers in spring / foliar not bothered as much by leaf diseases

                 Growing Your Own Buckeye Tree

The genus ‘Aesculus’ covers a wide arrary of trees and shrubs including Japanese Horsechestnut, Indian Horsechestnut, Red Horsechestnut, Common Horsechestnut, many ‘hybrid’ Buckeyes, California Buckeye, Chinese Buckeye, Texas Buckeye, Yellow Buckeye, Bottlebrush Buckeye, Red Buckeye, Painted Buckeye, and of course, Aesculus glabra, or commonly known as “Thee Ohio Buckeye”. 

Ohio is the Buckeye State, and Ohioans are known as “Buckeyes”. And, of course, there is that little tie in with the greatest college in the U.S., Thee Ohio State University, as they are “The Buckeyes”, along with their mascot “Brutus Buckeye”. And when it comes time for college football, the buckeye seeds become a major part buckeye fans wardrobe. That’s when buckeye fans start thinking about having their own buckeye tree, not only to commemorate the state of Ohio, but to show loyalty and pay homage to Thee Ohio State University. (Okay, I’m a Buckeye grad – what can I say?) So, how do you grow you own from a buckeye seed? It’s fairly simple.

GROWING A BUCKEYE FROM SEED     Collecting the seeds: Buckeye seeds ripen by September and usually begin to fall from the trees mid September and into October. Collect fresh seeds as soon as they fall to the ground (good luck fighting the squirrels for them!) Separate the seed from the leathery covering or husk, and your buckeye seeds are ready to plant. Yes, they are planted fresh, and must not be allowed to dry out.     Planting the seeds: Fresh buckeye seeds are either planted in the fall (in the ground or in pots), or stored in the refrigerator for planting in the spring. If planted outdoors in the fall, make sure they are protected from squirrels and other rodents with chicken wire or screen mesh. Buckeye seeds generally need a cold period of around 120 days before they germinate, but don’t be surprised if they begin to root and send up a shoot before winter arrives. Plant the seeds about 2 inches deep (about an inch or so over the top of the seed), protect from the squirrels, and keep them moist, but not wet.A light layer of mulch will help.If you decide to hold the seeds and plant in the spring, place them in some damp peat moss inside a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator for 4 months. If you have room, they can also be planted in small pots (4-5 inch) and stored in the fridge. Once they have developed a white root, they can be planted in the ground or in pots.Again, once outside, protect from the squirrels. Note:I would suggest growing them in pots for the first 2-3 years, and then planting the young buckeyes in the ground.Be sure to water and feed as needed during the growing season. And you will have better success growing them in a filtered sun or partially shaded area for those first 2-3 years. Do plant more than you would like. Germination rates are rarely 100%. Or, you can skip all of this and go purchase one from your local independent garden store!Position of the seed really doesn’t matter. But if you want, try placing the ‘eye’ on the side as the seed is planted.

Poisonous Seed? The Buckeye seed, or nut, has considerable folklore from mystical qualities to good luck charm, to be a cure for rheumatism and other ailments.The seed, or nut, is bitter and if eaten in quantity, is poisonous to man. According to OSU Extension, “Toxicity of buckeye is attributed to glycosides (e.g., aesculin, fraxin), saponin (aescin), and possibly alkaloids. Sprouts and leaves produced in early spring and seeds are especially poisonous. However, experimental feedings have shown that poisoning does not always follow buckeye consumption. Affected animals exhibit depression, incoordination, twitching, paralysis, inflammation of mucous membranes, and vomiting. Colic has also been reported in poisoned horses. Treated animals usually survive.In the spring, while waiting for other forage to become available, animals should not be allowed to graze in woodland pastures where there are buckeye sprouts.” Bottom line – have fun with the nuts but just don’t eat them!

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