Aesculus glabra (Ohio Buckeye)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Aesculus
Family:Sapindaceae (Soapberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:southeast US
Habitat:part shade, sun; average moisture to wet; deciduous forests, floodplains, urban and rural landscapes
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:20 to 60 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Showy, loose to dense, semi-pyramidal branching clusters 4 to 6 inches long at branch tips. Flowers are intermixed staminate (male), pistillate (female) and perfect (both male and female parts), about 1 inch across with 4 pale yellow to greenish-yellowish petals. The upper petals are erect, oblong to spatula-shaped with fringed edges and an orange-red stripe down middle; lateral petals are egg-shaped, cupped forward with fringed edges. The 7 stamens are longer than the petals, flaring out and up from the center, white with deep orange tips (anthers). The single style is longer than stamens, white with an obscure stigma at the tip, extended down and out below the stamens. The calyx cupping the flower is bell shaped with 5 lobes, ¼ to 1/3 as long as the petals. Flower and cluster stalks are hairy.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, long stalked, palmately compound with 5 to 7 leaflets. Leaves at branch tips can be tightly clustered nearly appearing whorled. Leaflets are 2½ to 6¼ inches long, ¼ to 2½ inches wide, generally elliptic, finely toothed around the edges, widest at or above middle, with a long or short taper to a pointed tip, and tapering at the base. The upper surface is hairless, bright green, the lower paler in color with conspicuous tufts of hair in vein axils. Fall color is gold to red-orange.

[photo of twig, bud and leaf scar] Branches and twigs are stout, especially on full sun specimens. Terminal buds very large, ½+ inch long, smaller below, egg shaped with a pointed tip. Bud scales are also egg-shaped with pointed tips, dull, light brown colored, and the tip edge slightly spreading. Leaf scars are broadly to narrowly smiley faced with three conspicuous vascular bundle scars. Bark a dull brownish gray due to very fine soft hairs, with scattered pale lenticels (pores), turning darker and smoother, though developing scaley patches with age.

[photo of trunk] Branch bark becomes rough with a shallow, wrinkly gray-brown ridge pattern; older bark is rough with shallow longitudal ridges. Trunks are typically 10 to 16 inches diameter max in Minnesota, but up to 24 inches in its native range.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a fleshy, globular capsule, 1½ to 2 inches diameter, golden brown, the surface leathery and covered in short spines, though may be just bumpy rather than spiny.

[photo of seed] Each capsule contains 1 to 3 nuts that are large, shiny, dark reddish-brown with a large, pale, circular "eye".

Notes:

Minnesota sits just northwest of Ohio Buckeye's native US range, where it is typically a mid-sized understory woodland species. Grown in the open it can attain a massive size of up to 75 feet and trunk girth of 2 feet. In Minnesota it's a fairly common tree in urban and rural landscapes, though typically grown in the open it rarely gets much taller than 40 feet, with a trunk diameter of 12 to 16 inches. It has only twice been documented as naturalized though it is likely widely under noted by field botanists. Squirrels love the nut, burying it widely and volunteer saplings are typically common in lawn edges, gardens and woodline edges near a parent tree. Considered by some as a "messy" tree due to the copious amounts of fallen nuts and husks, the tree itself is rather beautiful when in full flower. Squirrels typically take all the nuts leaving only discarded shells and husks to be raked up. While it can develop deep gold to red-orange fall color, it is commonly susceptible to foliar leaf spot diseases and leaf scorch causing premature leaf drop by late summer, especially in hot, sunny locations.

Ohio Buckeye resembles the related Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which is native to the Balkans of southeast Europe and also planted in landscapes in the US, occasionally escaping cultivation the same as Ohio Buckeye. Horse Chestnut has white flowers and leaflets are all typically widest near the tip with an abrupt taper to a short point, where Ohio Buckeye has pale yellow flowers and leaflets have a longer taper at the tip. Horse Chestnut buds are also up to 1½ inches long, rather shiny and sticky with 6 to 8 vascular bundles in the leaf scar, where Ohio Buckeye buds are about ½ inch long, dull and smooth and have 3 bundles in leaf scars.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Douglas County and numerous urban locations in the Twin Cities metro area.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Molly S - Fergus Falls
on: 2018-04-12 18:21:01

I have a Ohio buckeye growing in my yard. What can I plant under it?

Posted by: Jacque - Rushford
on: 2018-07-11 09:25:03

I'm pretty sure this is what I have in my yard but it's only about 6' right now.

Posted by: Dwight McCullough - Ham Lake
on: 2018-09-14 15:10:10

I was it would not have nuts... boy does it have them... I tried to roast them a few years ago and they were bitter.. The two trees appear to be different leaves... Just wonder if one might have some food value..

Posted by: Ken Quass - north central midway between Duluth and western border
on: 2018-10-19 16:38:01

Planted a buckeye several years ago in partial shade on our natural soil which is Menagha sand with little to no topsoil, good drainage. Have gotten 2-3 nuts developed per year. This is first year the 'squirrels' got all 3 before me. Nice tree, but slow-growing due to shade and poor soil quality. I am wondering if the tree needed another tree or pollinator to produce more nuts. I plan to pot several nuts to see what happens. Given to me by friends about 20 miles south of me.

Posted by: Daryl J - Battle Lake
on: 2019-03-31 12:01:49

We have Ohio Buckeye trees in our farmyard that were planted in 1908 (according to recollections to us offered in 1973 to by daughter of farmer who planted them at that time). The tallest is approximately 60 feet, with a trunk diameter between 2 and 3 feet. In the late 1970s, we planted some buckeye nuts in our lawn, and they are now trees between 25 and 40 feet tall. The Buckeye nuts sprout iin our hosts beds every year, and even then present a challenge to remove, as their lengthy taproot is difficult to pull out without using a long tile spade. Every autumn, beginning in September, their leaves turn color, ranging from orange to deep red, making for a spectacular show. Fox, gray, and red squirrels spend weeks each fall harvesting the fallen buckeyes, then burying them wherever they desire, with the excess sprouting the following spring into tiny trees. Over the years, some of the largest have succumbed during windstorms, leaving only two of the oldest, original trees remaining. The wood is very light in weight of a light cream color. I assume it would be a good wood for carver’s due to its softness.

Posted by: Nancy Braker - Rice and Dakota Counties
on: 2020-05-05 12:04:54

We find this tree growing in the Carleton Arboretum where it has been getting established in the under story of our forests, both in uplands and in floodplain areas. It is found commonly in the landscaped areas nearby and seems to be coming in both from squirrels planting it and drifting in through floodwaters.

Posted by: Ross - Twin cities
on: 2020-05-08 22:35:32

I just had noticed in the last few years that the buckeyes have really exploded in the wild of the twin cities. I hadn't seen them in Sandy soil but now a lot of forests have them growing in the understory.

Posted by: Jon - North Shore, Duluth
on: 2020-10-01 18:50:53

Found the Buckeye tree in the wood shaded heavily by a huge willow and several spruce trees. As a result stunted by the shade. Roughly, 15-20 feet tall. However, still exciting to find an Ohio Buckeye this far north. We are along the Shore we are in a 3-4 weather zone.

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