Ohio buckeye

The flower cluster of Ohio buckeye.

The Ohio buckeye is a neatly rounded tree with low, sweeping branches and dense foliage that provides deep shade. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring. Its name comes from the 'buckeyes,' a small, dark brown nut with a light patch resembling the eye of a deer, which grows inside a rounded prickly fruit capsule. This tree is susceptible to leaf blotch.  This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

Botanical name:

Aesculus glabra

All Common Names:

Ohio buckeye

Family (English):

Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)

Family (Botanic):

Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

20-40 feet

Mature Width:

20-40 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fall color,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No

Wildlife:

  • Butterflies,
  • Migrant birds,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

May be difficult to transplant due to the presence of a taproot.  Best growth on slightly acid soil.

Disease, pests and problems

Susceptible to leaf blotch, powdery mildew and infestation by insects such as scale and Japanese beetles.
Leaf scorch and premature leaf drop is probable in hot, dry periods.

Disease, pest and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 3
Commonly found near rivers and streams.

Bark color and texture

Bark is light tan to gray; warty when young, becoming more scaly with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

Palmately compound and arranged in pairs (opposite); up to 6 inches long.
Leaves green with  5 to 7 leaflets.
Fall color is yellow to a warm pumpkin-orange.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Large, 12 inch long,  upright terminal clusters of yellow-green flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Shiny brown nuts in prickly husk.
Buckeyes should not be eaten.

Cultivars and their differences

Early Glow™ Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra 'J.N. Select'):  A cultivar with superior resistance to leaf blotch, leaf scorch and powdery mildew.  Reliable red fall color and low fruit production.  A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.  Availability may be limited.

 

Location of Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye) at the Arboretum