822 Aesculus parvifloraCommon Names: bottlebrush buckeye Family: Hippocastanaceae (horse chestnut Family)
Bottlebrush buckeye is a multi-stemmed shrub with numerous erect slender stems and an irregular spreading form. It often suckers and forms extensive colonies by underground runners, especially in shady situations. Trained to a single leader, bottlebrush buckeye can get 8-12 ft (2.4-3.7 m) tall and spread 8-15 ft (2.4-4.6 m). Young twigs are green. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound with 5 (sometimes 7) leaflets, each about 3-8 in (7.6-20 cm) long. They unfurl a rich bronzy color in early spring, then mature to medium green on top and grayish and lightly pubescent underneath. In autumn they usually turn yellow before dropping. White flowers in showy 8-12 in (20-30.5 cm) cone-shaped panicles are produced in midsummer. The stamens extend fully an inch beyond the four petals and give the whole flower cluster the appearance of a bottle brush. The fruit is a 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) long, smooth pear shaped pale brown capsule with 1-3 shiny chestnut-brown nuts inside. The nut has a prominent pale tan hilum (scar) which apparently makes it look like a buck's eye.
Bottlebrush buckeye, Aesculus parviflora, is native to southwestern Georgia and much of Alabama except for the northern part of the state. It is an understory shrub, occurring in populations that are isolated from one another, generally in hardwood forests along river bluffs where the seeds apparently are dispersed by water.
CultureBottlebrush buckeye does best on neutral to acidic soils, but apparently tolerates slightly limey conditions as well. Light: Partial shade is best, but plantings in full sun (especially in more northern zones) do well. Moisture: Bottlebrush buckeye needs a well-drained soil but also regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Although native to the southeastern U.S., bottlebrush buckeye has proven to be hardy in cultivation as far north as Maine. Propagation: Bottlebrush buckeye is easy to grow from seed if the seed is planted as soon as it is collected. Once the seed dries out, it is difficult to get it to break dormancy and germinate. Buckeye also can be propagated from pieces of root cuttings.
Bottlebrush buckeye is one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs in North America. Use it as a specimen, in a group, or in a mixed border. It has a spreading tendency, so give it plenty of room in the shade of large deciduous trees. Aesculus parviflora may be hard to find in the nursery trade, but it is worth the effort to seek it out.
Bottlebrush buckeye is an excellent landscape plant; it does well in sunny or shady locations and can tolerate most well drained soils. Even if it never flowered it would be a beautiful shrub in the landscape. The leaves unfurl a rich bronze in very early spring, and they maintain healthy, dark-green foliage throughout the summer, unlike red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) which gets pretty ratty looking by late summer.
The leaves and especially the seeds of bottlebrush buckeye are highly poisonous and ingestion could be fatal for people or livestock.
Steve Christman 10/12/00; updated 9/29/03