The Ohio Buckeye tree is beautiful and I remember a mature one that grew in my neighbor’s backyard when I was young. It was wide crowned tree with its big leaves providing deep shade, and thrived next to our black walnut tree. I loved collecting the nuts in the fall.
That immediately tells you some important facts about this shade tree: it produces shade, a harvest of nuts, and is tolerant of the Juglans nigra toxin.
But Is This A Good Tree For A Home Landscape?
Despite the fact that Aesculus glabra is so good looking and turns a golden autumn color, it is not recommended for most home gardens.
- The famous nuts are large and create a nuisance on driveways and walks.
- The tree is subject to leaf scorch, Guignardia aesculi, which mars the appearance, though doesn’t kill the tree.
Since these are fairly remarkable faults, you probably won’t decide to plant it as a street tree, but if you have some land near a stream, or bottomland you may already have some of these trees or desire one, anyway.
Characteristics of Aesculus Glabra
- Grows 30 ft tall, though it can reach 70 ft in forest conditions. It reaches 20-40 feet wide.
- Round, spreading shape
- Native to Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
- Tap rooted, softwood tree.
- Leaves are palmately compound with 5 to 7 leaflets,
- Showy flowers in spring that look something like a large bottlebrush.
- Nuts are formed in a spiny husk, they open to the shiny brown “Buckeye”.
It likes rich loamy soil, but will grow on clay. Leaf scorch is more of a problem on dry soils.
This is a tree that produces deep shade, is tolerant of black walnut toxin, and is toxic to livestock. Squirrels don’t seem to be bothered, however, and relish eating the nuts.
Grass may be a challenge to grow underneath, but not impossible. Mainly due to heavy shade.
How To Grow A Buckeye
- Takes full sun, but is also shade tolerant.
- Moist soil for best growth, tolerant of drier soil.
- Prefers slightly acid soil, but is alkaline tolerant
- Not easy to transplant (due to taproot)
- Very hardy.
If you want to grow your own, collect the nuts after they have ripened, by September. Remove husk and plant about three inches deep. Do this right away in prepared soil. The next season, if plants have germinated, keep seedlings moist and protected from too much sun.
Better chances are to be had by buying a sapling from a nursery.
Would I Grow One?
Living in the country, I would grow an Ohio Buckeye if I needed deep shade and a source for the pretty nuts.
It wasn’t on my list of trees for this place, no, but neither was the American sycamore that I planted. That was a gift from my mother, from her yard, one year. With similar problems to the A. glabra, that choice turned out to be an asset to my property. So, I would say that there are many factors that go into choosing trees to grow.
I do have good memories of the well grown tree from my youth- it was very pretty, held its bright green leaves all summer, and always had a good crop of nuts each fall. But given what I know of problems of it now, no I wouldn’t plant it. Especially not in a city yard where the limited space requirements would be quickly eaten up by such a large densely leaved tree.
It is likely fine for suburban, but not for urban plantings.
In the Buckeye Collection of the OSU Chadwick Arboretum are examples to view in a city location.
Substitute Another Choice
Autumn Splendor Buckeye (Aesculus x arnoldiana â€˜AutumnSplendor â€™) has good leaf scorch resistance.
Homestead Buckeye (A. x â€˜Homesteadâ€™) – Superior SDSU hybrid introduction, reddish-orange fall color, dense crown.
Buckeye Fun Facts
The nut is the mascot of the Ohio State team.
Holding a “buckeye nut” your left pocket is considered good luck.
The tree is the official state tree of Ohio.
Named Aesculus glabra by the German botanist Willdenow in 1809