TREES & plants

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
  • 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
  • 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.


Aesculus glabra or Ohio buckeye