Ohio has a number of trees that produce nuts, including the buckeye trees that give Ohio its "Buckeye State" nickname. Ohio’s nut-producing species are members of the beech, walnut and horse chestnut families of trees, among others. The nuts of these trees are a staple in the diet of many mammals such as squirrels and deer and many of these trees are suitable for landscaping and ornamental usages as well.
The yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) is part of the horse chestnut family and gets its name because its nut looks like the eye of a buck deer, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. Yellow buckeye is a tall tree, growing up to 100 feet. Yellow buckeye has compound leaves, with individual leaflets arranged like the fingers of your hand on a long stalk. The yellow buckeye develops fruit with one to two nuts within a smooth husk, ripening by September throughout most of Ohio. Full sun and moist, but well-draining, soil are required for a healthy specimen of this nut tree.
The butternut tree (Juglans cinerea) grows all over Ohio, but primarily in the eastern half of the state. Butternut is deciduous, losing its leaves every year and the tree is part of the walnut family. Nicknamed "white walnut," butternut produces an oily, sweet nut that at one time provided butter to those clever enough to boil them. The University of Connecticut Plant Database website says that a butternut tree averages from 40 to 60 feet tall and between 30 and 50 feet in width. It has compound leaves with central stems as long as 20 inches.
The nuts come in an oblong husk covered with sticky hairs. You can plant one in full or partial sun as long as the ground is damp. The tree frequently grows in ravines and wet bottomlands near rivers and streams. The tree has the ability to produce a chemical compound called juglone that will not allow many types of plants to grow in the surrounding soil.
The shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa) can grow to 100 feet tall with a trunk some 2-1/2 feet across. The wood is heavy but elastic and typically used to make such products as tool handles, timbers and furniture. Shellbark hickory is the biggest type of hickory tree and has 2-1/2-inch diameter nuts, leading to one of its nicknames--king nut hickory. The tree sends down a deep taproot and it grows in partial shade. Few pests or diseases bother this species and its taproot makes it drought resistant. One problem this potential huge tree presents is litter in the form of nuts, shells, leaflets and twigs. Squirrels are often the culprits for helping this mess rain down on the ground below as they forage in the tree for the tasty nuts.