1297 Aesculus glabraCommon Names: Ohio buckeye,fetid buckeye,Texas buckeye Family: Hippocastanaceae (horse chestnut Family)
Ohio buckeye is a medium sized tree that typically gets up to around 50 ft (15 m) tall with a broad, open crown up to 30 ft (10 m) across. The bark is dark brown and deeply furrowed, especially on older trees. The deciduous leaves are opposite and palmately compound with five or seven narrow leaflets, each 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long and 1-2 in (3-6 cm) wide. The petioles (leaf stems) are as long as the leaves. The individual leaflets are tapered at both ends and finely toothed on the margins. Leaves turn yellow to orange in fall. The leaves, bark and twigs all have an obnoxious (fetid) odor when crushed. Flowers are borne in erect cone-shaped clusters, 5-6 in (12-15 cm) tall. The individual flowers are pale yellowish green and around 0.5-1.5 in (12-38 mm) long. The fruit is a rounded capsule with a leathery and knobby exterior that splits open to release 1-3 shiny dark reddish brown seeds, each a little more than an inch (2.5 cm) across.
Ohio buckeye is similar to yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava), but is a smaller tree, has stinky leaves and is our only buckeye with knobby fruit husks. It also is similar to the European horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), but is a smaller tree with much more slender, fingerlike leaflets, and flowers not as showy. The typical variety of Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra var. glabra) has palmately compound leaves with five leaflets; the Texas buckeye, (A. g. var. arguta) is a smaller tree, and has seven leaflets. Aesculus glabra var. nana is smaller yet, and shrubbier, reaching just 6 ft (2 m) high and wide.
Aesculus glabra occurs naturally from western Pennsylvania to Iowa and southwestward to central Texas. It grows in moist hardwood forests, river swamps and along streams from the western slopes of the Allegheny Mountains to the edge of the Great Plains. Ohio buckeye grows in mixed forests, often in association with basswood (Tilia americana) , sugar maple (Acer saccharum), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and various hickories (Carya spp.) , as well as northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and several other oaks. This is a forest subcanopy tree, not a pioneer species, and does not grow naturally in open areas. Aesculus glabra var. arguta (Texas buckeye) is the variety in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It grows in drier habitats. Aesculus glabra var. nana occurs in North-central Georgia.
Light: Ohio buckeye tolerates partial shade and thrives in full sun as long as the soil is not too dry. Moisture: Ohio buckeye likes a moist soil that does not stay waterlogged. It does poorly in hot, dry climates. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 7. Propagation: Sow the seeds outdoors as soon as they ripen, when the capsules split open and release them. Do not overwater and expect the seeds to germinate in early spring. If allowed to dry, the seeds may lose viability.
Ohio buckeye makes a handsome specimen tree and an effective shade tree. The leaves come out very early in spring (before the flowers and before almost all other trees) and turn shades of yellow-orange in early fall. The foliage is dense and tends to obscure the flower clusters, as it undeniably thwarts the grass beneath. Considered by many to be a rather messy tree owing to abundant flower, fruit and leaf drop, Ohio buckeye is nevertheless planted as an ornamental in Europe and the eastern US. The dwarf variety, nana, is a good looking bushy little shrub, suitable for small lawns.
The wood of Ohio buckeye is white and of light weight. It is easy to carve and resists splitting, but is seldom used because of the tree’s relative rarity. Squirrels sometimes eat the nuts.
The Buckeye State, Ohio, honors Aesculus glabra as its State Tree. Although buckeyes are excellent for carrying around in your pocket and throwing at perceived enemies, they are poisonous and not to be eaten. Farmers routinely destroy buckeyes and have managed to eliminate the species from many areas.
The nuts and the leaves are poisonous to humans, and the young shoots are said to be poisonous to cattle. This, despite the generic name, Aesculus, which is from the Latin word meaning food. Go figure.
Steve Christman 10/1/17