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Useful Temperate Plants

Aesculus californica

(Spach.)Nutt.

Sapindaceae

+ Synonyms

Common Name: Californian Buckeye

Aesculus californica
Flowering plant at the Arboretum National des Barres, Nogent-sur-Vernisson, France
Photograph by: Basicdesign
Creative Commons License
Aesculus californica Aesculus californica Aesculus californica Aesculus californica Aesculus californica Aesculus californica Aesculus californica

General Information

Aesculus californica is most commonly a deciduous shrub 3 - 5 metres tall with spreading stems that form a broad, dense top. Sometimes it becomes more tree-like, growing up to 9 metres tall with a short bole that can sometimes reach 150cm in diameter and a large, round-headed top[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
].
The plant was often used as food, medicine and a source of materials by the native N. Americans, but is little used nowadays. It is often grown as an ornamental, valued especially for its floral display.

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing the glycoside esculin, the saponin aescin, and possibly alkaloids. Ingestion can cause muscular weakness and paralysis, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, paralysis, and stupor[
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].
Honeybees are the chief pollinators of this tree, but the pollen and nectar are toxic to them. Losses of adult honeybees and their larvae due to poisoning can be severe[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].
The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The flowers of this plant are toxic to bees[
94
Title
Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West.
Publication
 
Author
Sweet. M.
Publisher
Naturegraph Co.
Year
1962
ISBN
0-911010-54-8
Description
Useful wild plants in Western N. America. A pocket guide.
].

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A.
Publisher
University of California Press
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

South-western N. America - California

Habitat

Moist stream borders, scrub and the edges of oak and pine woods in canyons and dry slopes below 1,200 metres[
71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A.
Publisher
University of California Press
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
184
Title
Shrubs.
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Pan Books
Year
1989
ISBN
0-330-30258-2
Description
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1,900 species and cultivars.
,
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitDeciduous Tree
Height5.00 m
Growth RateMedium
PollinatorsBees
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Aesculus californica is moderately cold tolerant, though it grows best in areas where winter temperatures do not fall below -10°c. It does not do well in areas with higher rainfalls - in Britain for example it grows well in the east and south-east, but less well in the moister west[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Requires a position in full sun[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Prefers dry sunny locations[
126
Title
The Plantsman. Vol. 6. 1984 - 1985.
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
Royal Horticultural Society
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants including Actinidia and Wisteria species.
]. Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
A moderately fast-growing and long-lived tree in the wild[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].
Seedlings quickly develop a taproot and larger plants can be difficult to transplant[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
].

Edible Uses

Seed - cooked[
22
Title
Alternative Foods.
Publication
 
Author
Sholto-Douglas. J.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Not very comprehensive, it seems more or less like a copy of earlier writings with little added.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
63
Title
Nuts.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
,
92
Title
Early Uses of Californian Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Balls. E. K.
Publisher
University of California Press
Year
1975
ISBN
0-520-00072-2
Description
A nice readable book.
,
94
Title
Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West.
Publication
 
Author
Sweet. M.
Publisher
Naturegraph Co.
Year
1962
ISBN
0-911010-54-8
Description
Useful wild plants in Western N. America. A pocket guide.
,
95
Title
Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada.
Publication
 
Author
Saunders. C. F.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1976
ISBN
0-486-23310-3
Description
Useful wild plants of America. A pocket guide.
]. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a gruel[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. The seed contains about 23% protein and has an agreeable taste[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. The seed is large, and can be up to 5cm in diameter[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. It is often produced abundantly in the warmer areas of Britain and is easily harvested[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. This was the most commonly used Aesculus species in N. America[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. It does, however, contain poisonous saponins (see the notes above on toxicity) and so needs careful preparation before being eaten. The seed needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the native Americans would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Medicinal

The seed contains saponins and can be used as an expectorant[
94
Title
Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West.
Publication
 
Author
Sweet. M.
Publisher
Naturegraph Co.
Year
1962
ISBN
0-911010-54-8
Description
Useful wild plants in Western N. America. A pocket guide.
].

The crushed fruit is applied as a salve on haemorrhoids[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of toothache and loose teeth[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

In its native range, the plant is valuable as a soil binder on stream or river banks and on steep slopes[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].

Other Uses

The seed is rich in saponins, these are used as a soap substitute[
169
Title
A Weavers Garden
Publication
 
Author
Buchanan. R.
Publisher
McGraw-Hill Contemporary
Year
1987
ISBN
0934026289
Description
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
]. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

The wood was used as friction sticks for making fire by the North American Indians[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

The heartwood is white or faintly tinged with yellow; it is not clearly demarcated from the thin layer of sapwood. The wood is soft, light in weight, very close grained[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. It is of no value as a lumber[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
]. It is occasionally used for lumber and paper pulp[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
80
Title
Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Publication
 
Author
McMillan-Browse. P.
Publisher
Grower Books
Year
1985
ISBN
0-901361-21-6
Description
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
]. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather[
130
Title
The Plantsman. Vol. 4. 1982 - 1983.
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
Royal Horticultural Society
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants, including Distylium racemosum and some perennial members of the family Berberidaceae.
]. Seedlings develop a large taproot following germination and so, if grown in containers, should be given sufficient root room[
379
Title
Silvics of North America. Agricultural Handbook No. 654.
Publication
 
Author
Burns. R.M. & Honkala. B.H.
Website
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm
Publisher
USDA Forest Service; Washington DC.
Year
1990
ISBN
 
Description
A very comprehensice guide to about 200 species of timber trees of N. America, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Mainly temperate species, plus a number of tropical species. It is downloadable from the Internet.
]. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable[
80
Title
Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Publication
 
Author
McMillan-Browse. P.
Publisher
Grower Books
Year
1985
ISBN
0-901361-21-6
Description
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
,
113
Title
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
Publication
 
Author
Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W.
Publisher
Athens Ga. Varsity Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0942375009
Description
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
]. It is best to sow the seed with its 'scar' downwards[
130
Title
The Plantsman. Vol. 4. 1982 - 1983.
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
Royal Horticultural Society
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants, including Distylium racemosum and some perennial members of the family Berberidaceae.
]. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-07-21. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Aesculus+californica>

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