Yellow Buckeye - Aesculus flava
Buckeye Family (Hippocastanaceae)
- Native habitat: Pennsylvania to Tennessee, northern Georgia and northern Alabama, west to Illinois on mountains and in bottom lands.
- Growth habit: Oval to slightly spreading crown.
- Tree size: This species can reach a height of 100 feet or more at maturity in its native habitat. Cultivated, it can attain a height of 60 to 75 feet.
- Flower and fruit: Yellow flowers appear in May on upright panicles 6 to 7 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Pear-shaped, 2- to 3-inch-long fruit, a capsule, is smooth and contains one to two shiny seeds.
- Leaf: Five 4- to 6-inch-long, toothed leaflets are arranged palm-like on short stalks. The dark green leaves become pumpkin color in fall.
- Hardiness: Winter hardy to USDA Zone 4.
The leathery husk of the buckeye fruit splits in fall and the seed is said to resemble the eye of a deer, to which the common name refers. Aesculus was the Latin name given to an oak or any tree with seeds that were eaten by livestock; flava is derived from the Latin word flavens (yellow) and refers to the buckeye's flowers. This species was previously called A. octandra and is sometimes still sold under that name. Unlike some buckeyes, yellow buckeye husks are smooth without having spines. The seeds of yellow buckeye are poisonous to humans if eaten raw. Native Americans detoxified the seeds with a roasting procedure using hot rocks. Bookbinders have benefitted from the toxic properties of buckeye. A paste is made from the seeds and used in bookbinding to deter insect damage.