Ohio State Tree
Ohio Buckeye (common name)
Aesculus glabra (scientific name)
No other state has its identity so closely linked to its state tree. Ohio is the Buckeye State, Ohio natives are called Buckeyes, and the mascot of Ohio State University is Brutus Buckeye, a character with a head shaped like an oversized buckeye seed. The name buckeye is in reference to the tree's nuts. The nuts are large, and appear to be fashioned from stained and varnished wood. A round, pale patch on the top gives the whole nut the look of an eyeball of a whitetail deer.
Ohio buckeye is common in the Great Lakes states and eastern prairie states. Also known as American buckeye, fetid buckeye, and stinking buckeye, this tree derives its unflattering common names from the disagreeable odor that emanates when the leaves are crushed, twigs are broken, or bark is bruised.
Ohio buckeye is a small- to medium-sized deciduous shrub or small tree, usually not exceeding 30 feet (9.1 m), but in rare cases known to exceed 100 feet (30.5 m) tall. It has a broad, rounded crown, with dense, low branches. Leaves are composed of five leaflets, spread like the fingers of a hand. Its flowers are yellow and grouped in an attractive cluster. Fruits have lumpy to prickly husks surrounding a usually single, rounded seed that is over one inch long, and deep brown with a large pale-colored patch.
Height: up to 100 ft (30.5 m)
Diameter: 20-40 ft (6.1-12.2 m)
Bark: young: ashy-gray, corky and warty
mature: ashy-gray, fissured
Fruit: light brown capsule, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, pear-shaped, contains poisonous seeds
Leaves: 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide, 3-6 in (7.5-15 cm) long, 5 leaves spread in palm formation, yellow to brown
Young trees show moderate growth rates. Most trees live 80 to 100 years.
The average annual temperature in the growing area of Ohio buckeye ranges from about 40° to 50°F (4°-10°C). Average minimum temperatures are not below -20°F (-29°C) within its range, but -40°F (-40°C) temperatures have been recorded where it grows in Missouri and Iowa. Maximum temperatures as high as 115°F (46°C) have occurred in the western part of its range.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Although the seeds are bulky and contain a lot of substance, they are not edible. The seeds, bark, leaves, and fruit of Ohio buckeye are reported to be poisonous if ingested, and the buckeye native to Illinois is known to contain a poisonous narcotic glucoside. The young shoots of buckeye are poisonous to cattle, and landowners in Indiana have exterminated buckeye in many areas because the seed is considered poisonous to livestock.
On the other hand, some buckeye seeds may be eaten by squirrels. In Ohio, the seeds apparently constitute from 2 to 5 percent of the food of eastern fox squirrels during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Other studies in Ohio list buckeye as an auxiliary food that was sampled by squirrels in September but not eaten in quantity. Fox squirrels in Illinois were observed eating the pith from terminal twigs. Buckeye pith contains 66 percent raffinose, a crystalline sugar that is much sweeter and contains potentially more energy than sucrose.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Ohio buckeye has not found many industrial uses. Buckeye wood is soft and is used for pulpwood and occasionally for lumber. It is used for making artificial limbs because it is light, easily worked, and resists splitting. It is also used in small quantities for various kinds of woodenware, crates, veneer, and toys. Pioneers used the wood for cabin structure and furniture. Ohio buckeye is used as an ornamental tree and occasionally as a shrub.
Native Americans would blanch buckeye nuts, extracting the tannic acid for use in leather. In addition, Native Americans would roast and peel the nut, and mash the contents into a nutritional meal they called "Hetuck". They also ground buckeye to use as a powder on ponds to stun fish. Buckeye seeds have sometimes been carried as good-luck charms and to prevent rheumatism.
Ohio buckeye is not listed by the Society of American Foresters as a major or minor component of any of the North American forest cover types, probably because of its relatively minor commercial importance and its increasing rarity.
Seeds are dispersed from early September to late October by gravity, by animal activity, and sometimes by water. Ohio buckeye begins bearing seeds at eight years but no data are available on frequency and amount of seed produced. No information is available about vegetative reproduction of Ohio buckeye.
The buckeye requires moisture and is most frequently found along river bottoms and in well-drained, acidic streambank soils. Although Ohio buckeye is sometimes found on drier sites such as those supporting oak-hickory stands, and on clayey soils, it usually grows slowly in these situations and seldom becomes dominant there.
Ohio buckeye grows mostly on sites with medium to high moisture in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and southern Michigan, west to Illinois and central Iowa. Its range extends south to eastern Kansas, southwestern Oklahoma, and central Texas, and east to western Arkansas, Tennessee, and central Alabama. It has been planted in Europe and in eastern Massachusetts, Minnesota, and western Kansas.
The tree is commonly found at elevations from 1,500 to 6,100 feet (460 to 1,860 m), with the greatest numbers occurring toward the higher end of the range.
Click to enlarge an image
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press