Description & Overview

Ohio Buckeye naturally resides in bottomlands, along rivers and streams, in mixed hardwood forests, and in moist ravines. A medium-sized tree, this species has gray, scaly bark, pendulous branches, large palmate leaves, and perhaps its best feature, showy yellow-green flowers. The flowers are followed by the fruit, which is a round capsule containing one or two buckeyes inside a light brown husk covered with spines. The ripened fruit is a beautiful dark brown color with a lighter tan “eye.” Ohio Buckeye may also be known as Fetid Buckeye.

Core Characteristics

Category: Tree

Wisconsin Native: No - Native to North America

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 30-35 feet

Mature Spread: 30-35 feet

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Oval

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Moist, fertile

Flower: Creamy-yellow-green, erect panicles up to 7" long, 3" wide.

Bloom Period: mid-to-late May

Foliage: Palmate, 5-7 leaflets, bright green

Fall Color: Yellow but sometimes pumpkin orange

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Spiky tan husk with a glossy, smooth brown nut with a pale scar on one end, resembles a buck's eye. Ripen August to September. 1-2" wide.

Suggested Uses

Ohio Buckeye is usually not planted in residential settings as they are quite messy (nuts). Flowers, bark, and stems have a somewhat unpleasant odor when crushed. Fetid Buckeye is another name by which it is known, and now you know why. That said, it is one of the most tolerant of trees and is a true survivor. Lean or dry soils, high alkalinity, or salt – pffff, no problem! Ohio Buckeye operates somewhat like a spring ephemeral, growing very early in the season often before the rest of the forest is growing, producing flowers in early spring, which can be difficult to achieve in a forest early in the season. Very often, one flush of growth is produced per year.

Ohio Buckeye is a great tree for moist conditions within a natural setting, woodlands, and parks. Wide, palmate tropical-looking leaves and a pretty flower make this a nice selection for a shade or ornamental tree planting, with the proper space! Medium in size, Ohio Buckeye makes a good understory tree, slightly shaded by larger canopy trees where the foliage is least likely to scorch. This tree leafs out early in spring, an adaptation to living as an understory tree.

Ohio Buckeye naturally resides in bottomlands, along rivers and streams, in mixed hardwood forests, and in moist ravines. A medium-sized tree, this sp…

Wildlife Value

Ohio Buckeye is pollinated by Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, long-tongued bees like Bumble bees (Bombus spp.), Long-horned bees (Synhalonia spp.), Mason bees (Osmia spp.) and Anthophorine bees (Anthophora spp) seeking nectar. Sometimes smaller bees like Halictid and Andrenid bees will also visit the flowers.

It is a host plant for the Maple Twig Borer Moth (Proteoteras aesculana).

Various insects feed on the leaves, sap, and bark of the tree, including leafhoppers, beetles, armored-scale insects, spittlebugs, and thrips.

Squirrels will eat the nuts and will scoop them up from the ground. Eastern Fox Squirrels have been known to eat the pith of the twigs, which have a sugary substance.

Deer and other mammals tend to stay away from Ohio Buckeye because of its poisonous leaves and bark, and well, they stink.

The Tricolored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus) a Threatened species in Wisconsin will use Ohio Buckeye as a summer roost tree. If you want to help out these creatures, plant an Ohio Buckeye!

Maintenance Tips

Leaves, twigs, and nuts are toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and livestock.

Any pruning should be done in early spring and preferably by a certified arborist.

Ohio Buckeye naturally resides in bottomlands, along rivers and streams, in mixed hardwood forests, and in moist ravines. A medium-sized tree, this sp…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Canker, leaf spot, leaf scorch, and Horsechestnut scale are occasional pests. Trees are often most defoliated by mid to late summer because of these issues.

Leaf scorch is a stress response from heat and drought conditions, resulting in the browning of the leaf margins. By late summer, the tree may be partially defoliated and look raggedy. Air pollution also causes leaf scorch, perhaps more so than heat and drought.

Deer may nibble on twigs in winter, but because of a poisonous glucoside, aesculin, is generally left alone.

All parts of the plant are toxic to humans. Symptoms of ingestion include muscle weakness, paralysis, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, and paralysis.

Leaf Lore

The genus Aesculus is a Latin name for a nut-bearing oak. The specific epithet glabra means “without hairs” in reference to the smooth leaves.

The wood of Ohio Buckeyes is light and resists splitting, lending its applications for artificial limbs.

Most Ohio Buckeyes live 80-100 years of age. Currently, the largest Ohio Buckeye is located in Illinois with a trunk circumference of 181.1 inches (15 feet)! It stands 75 feet tall with a canopy spread of 75 feet.

In 1953, Ohio designated the Buckeye as the state tree, largely because they are so commonly found growing along rivers, streams, and floodplains. The state’s nickname is “the Buckeye State” with residents known as “Buckeyes.”

Pioneers carried a buckeye seed with them to ward off rheumatism.

Buckeyes, also known as “conkers” were carried by schoolchildren and adults as good luck charms and were used to play a game in Great Britain and Ireland.

Companion Plants

Combine Ohio Buckeye with plants that thrive in similar site conditions such as Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana), Giant Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Alpine Violet (Viola labradorica), Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and American Basswood (Tilia americana).

Ohio Buckeye naturally resides in bottomlands, along rivers and streams, in mixed hardwood forests, and in moist ravines. A medium-sized tree, this sp…
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Written by Beth DeLain