Ohio Buckeye (Glabra)

The Ohio Buckeye (Glabra) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Ohio Buckeye (Glabra) has green foliage and inconspicuous green flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Ohio Buckeye (Glabra) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Ohio Buckeye (Glabra) will reach up to 50 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 25 feet.

The Ohio Buckeye (Glabra) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Poisonous Plant: All parts of the plant (leaves, bark, fruit) are highly toxic if ingested – because of the glycoside aesculin, the saponin aescin, and possibly alkaloids. Symptoms are muscle weakness and paralysis, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, paralysis, and stupor. Many landowners have eradicated it to prevent livestock poisoning. Native Americans ground buckeye to use as a powder on ponds to stun fish.

Commercial: The soft, lightwood of Ohio buckeye has limited commercial use as sawtimber and it is of little commercial importance. It is used for making artificial limbs because it is light, easily worked, and resists splitting; it is also used in small quantities for various kinds of woodenware, crates, veneer, and toys. Pioneers used the wood for cabin structure and furniture.

Ornamental: The tree is an attractive ornamental, best in open, natural settings or parks because of its broad crown. It also is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental shrub. Other: Buckeye seeds have sometimes been carried as good-luck charms and to prevent rheumatism. Despite the poisonous properties to humans and livestock (below), squirrels are known to eat the raw seeds. Native Americans ate roasted seeds as a starchy meal.

General Characteristics

General: Horsechestnut Family (Hippocastanaceae). Native, small trees, most less than 15 m tall (rarely to 45 m), with a dense oval to round crown, branching quite low, sometimes (usually on drier sites) a thicket-forming shrub; twigs thick, red-brown, hairy when young, with large triangular leaf scars; terminal buds large, orangish brown with keeled scales; bark smooth and light gray, becoming rough and scaly. Leaves are deciduous, opposite, palmately compound, leaflets 5­7(-11), oval to obovate or lanceolate, 6-13 cm long with a finely toothed margin, emerging bright green, deepening to dark green, often developing yellow or orange fall color, emitting a strong fetid odor when crushed. The leaves have a somewhat unique shape. Flowers are creamy to greenish yellow, about 1-2 cm long, in large, showy, upright, branched, terminal clusters at ends of leafy branches, only those flowers near the base of the branches of a cluster are perfect and fertile -- the others are staminate; petals 4; stamens longer than petals. Fruits are rounded capsules about 3 cm wide, borne on a stout stalk, with a warty or prickly, thick, leathery husk; seeds 1(-3) smooth, glossy, chestnut-brown seeds, each with a pale scar (the “buck's eye”). The common name refers to its abundance in Ohio and the supposed likeness of the nut to the eye of a buck; other names are derived from the fetid odor of the crushed leaves, bark, broken twigs, and flowers.

Variation within the species: Two morphological segments are said to exist within the species: var. glabra is the northern (northwestern) segment with 5 leaflets, var. arguta the more southern form with 7-11 leaflets and other minor and variable differences in vestiture and leaflet shape. Var. arguta is weakly differentiated and commonly not recognized (see for example Diggs et al. 1999).

Required Growing Conditions

Primarily a species of the east-central US. Var. glabra grows from western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and southern Michigan west to Illinois and south to Tennessee, Alabama, and rarely in Georgia, Mississippi, and states peripheral to the main northern range. Var. arguta (if recognized) is native to upland forests of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska. Ohio buckeye is planted in various localities in the eastern US, including localities north and east of its main range. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Ohio buckeye occurs in mixed hardwood forests of bottom lands along river and stream banks and in rich, moist soils of ravines and other steep to gentle slopes, less commonly on drier sites mixed in oak-hickory stands, on limestone slopes in the southwestern portion of the range.

It is shade tolerant and often found in beech-sugar maple woods. In dense stands, side competition and shade foster straight boles and encourage natural pruning of this tree, which otherwise tends to have a large crown that retains branches on the lower portions.

Ohio buckeye is one of the first trees to leaf out in spring. Flowering: March-May, after the leaves appear; fruiting: September-October.

Cultivation and Care

Seeds of Ohio buckeye ordinarily germinate in the spring after wintering on the ground. Seedlings can grow under some shade, but the species seems to develop best as isolated individuals in openings along streambanks and on other moist sites. Young trees show moderate growth rates and may begin producing fruit at 8 years. Most trees live 80-100 years.

Ohio buckeye can be propagated by seed (stratify 60-120 days at 33-41( F); seeds must be kept moist to avoid loss of viability.

General Upkeep and Control

Leaf scorch and leaf blotch are usually the most serious problems of Ohio buckeye. Leaf scorch seemingly a response to heat and drought along urban streets, results in browning of the leaf margins. By late summer to early fall the trees look unsightly and are often partially defoliated. Air pollution may be more responsible for this problem than heat or drought. The leaf blotch (Guignardia aesculi) begins as brown spots or blotches on the leaves and may eventually give the tree a scorched appearance. This disease may slow the growth rate but does no permanent damage to the tree and can be controlled on ornamentals.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 50
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 36
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–7.1 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 36
Minimum Frost-Free Days 145 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA