Family: Sapindaceae (The Soapberry family) Genus: Aesculus Species: glabra Common names: Ohio buckeye, American buckeye, or fetid buckeye. Size: Small to medium tree Site: Well drained acidic soils, will tolerate occasional drought Fun Fact: Ohio buckeye is the state tree of Ohio
Ohio buckeye(Aesculus glabra) is native to the lower Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. It can grow between 20 - 40 feet in height at maturity with a 20 - 40 foot canopy spread, making it a smaller lawn tree. Ohio buckeye has palmately compound leaves. The leaflets are ovate in sets of four to five with serrate margins. Aesculus glabra has a shortened life expectancy of 80-100 yearsin urban areas due to pollution and summer leaf scorch, when heat and drought during the summer stress the trees. While the Ohio buckeye is not very drought tolerant it is extremely salt tolerant, making it a desirable urban tree.
The best time to plant Aesculus glabra is in the fall, balled and bur-lapped into well drained moist soil. If Ohio buckeye are planted when they are too warm they are known to drop their leaves prematurely. It can be planted in hardiness zones from 4 -7 where average annual rainfall is between 20 to 25 inches, with snowfall ranging from 2 to 40 inches in its Northernmost range. The average number of frost free growing days are between 160 and 220 and it is best to prune Ohio buckeye in the early spring.
The wood has very little commercial value and is not recommended for use as timber, but can be used as craft wood for toys or veneer because it is lightweight and doesn’t crack easily. The fruit has little wildlife value aside from the squirrels that feed on the large seed, Ohio buckeye seeds are poisonous to humans and should not be consumed. Seed production begins after eight years but there is no information on the frequency and intensity of mast years, when large amounts of fruits are produced. It used to be believed that placing an Ohio buckeye seed in your pocket would bring you good luck.
Ohio buckeye is frequently planted for its yellow-green showy flowers in the spring, that bloom from March to May. The flowers are perfect meaning it has both carpels and stamens and can be described as “bisexual.” It has a superior ovary with a many-flowered panicle. In addition to being planted as an ornamental for its spring flowers it is also planted for its fall colors.
Ohio buckeye is susceptible to only a few diseases, leaf blotch, leaf spot, powdery mildew, anthracnose, and leaf scorch. When the tree is stressed or planted in full sun Ohio buckeye can develop powdery mildew. It is affected by two separate insect pests, Japanese beetle and White-Marked Tussock Moth.