Aesculus arguta Buckley
Aesculus buckleyi (Sarg.) Bush
Aesculus echinata Muhl.
Aesculus muricata Raf.
Aesculus ochroleuca Raf.
Aesculus ohioensis F.Michx.
Aesculus pallida Willd.
Aesculus rosea Loudon
Aesculus rubella Wender.
Aesculus rubicunda Lodd.
Aesculus verrucosa Raf.
Aesculus watsoniana D.Dietr.
Hippocastanum carneum Raf.
Hippocastanum glabrum buckleyi (Sarg.) Lunell
Hippocastanum rubicundum Raf.
Isypus ochraceus Raf.
Nebropsis glabra (Willd.) Raf.
Nebropsis muricata Raf.
Nebropsis ochroleuca Raf.
Nebropsis pallida (Willd.) Raf.
Nebropsis verrucosa Raf.
Ozotis trifoliata Raf.
Pavia arguta Raf.
Pavia carnea Spach
Pavia glabra Spach
Pavia pallida Spach
Pavia rubra arguta G.Don ex Loudon
Pavia watsoniana Spach
Pawia glabra Kuntze
Pawia pallida Kuntze
Pawia rubicunda Kuntze
Common Name: Ohio Buckeye
Tree growing in Århus, Denmark.
Photograph by: Isfisk
Aesculus glabra is a deciduous tree with a broad, oval-rounded crown; it usually grows from 6 - 12 metres tall, exceptionally to 22 metres[
The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
The plant is poisonous, containing the glycoside aesculin, the saponin aescin, and possibly alkaloids. The symptoms include muscle weakness and paralysis, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, paralysis, and stupor - death has been known to result[
The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching 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 raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded 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 and make them easy to catch[
South-eastern and Central N. America - Pennsylvania to Nebraska, south to Tennessee and Oklahoma
Usually found in rich, moist sites such as river bottoms and streambank soils, but it is sometimes also found on drier sites though does not grow so well there[
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Aesculus glabra is found in the continental climate of eastern N. America, where it grows mainly at lower elevations. It is found in areas where the mean annual temperature ranges from about 4 - 10°c; the mean minimum temperatures are not below -29°c, although -40°c has been recorded where it grows in Missouri and Iowa; maximum temperatures as high as 46°c have occurred in the western part of its range. The mean annual precipitation ranges from 760 - 1,400mm, with 510 - 640mm falling in the growing season and snowfall ranging from 5 - 102cm. About 160 days are frost-free in the northern part of the range and as many as 220 days in the southern part[
]. Although the trees are very hardy when dormant, the new growth can be damaged by late spring frosts so the plant does less well in more maritime climates[
Succeeds in full sun to partial shade[
]. Prefers a deep loamy, moist but well-drained soil but is not too fussy[
This species is the state tree of Ohio[
]. Its growth-rate is moderate in the wild, with trees living up to 100 years[
The twigs, bark, flowers and leaves all produce a foetid odour if crushed[
Seedlings quickly develop a taproot and larger plants can be difficult to transplant[
Plants begin to produce seed when about 8 years old[
Only those flowers near the base of the branches of an inflorescence are hermaphrodite and fertile. The others are male and infertile[
Seed - cooked[
]. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, up to 35mm in diameter[
], and is easily harvested[
]. It is quite rich in saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the native North 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. By this time most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out[
Minute doses of the seed are used internally in the treatment of spasmodic coughs, asthma and internal irritations[
The seed is used externally as a tea or an ointment in the treatment of rheumatism and piles[
An extract of the bark has been used as an irritant of the cerebro-spinal system[
Saponins in the seed are used as a soap substitute[
]. 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[
Wood - close-grained, light, soft, white, but often blemished by dark lines of decay[
]. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot[
]. It is easy to carve and resists splitting. Ideal to use in making artificial limbs, it is also used for woodenware, pulp etc and is occasionally sawn into lumber[
Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[
]. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather[
]. Seedlings develop a large taproot following germination and so, if grown in containers, should be given sufficient root room[
]. 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[
]. It is best to sow the seed with its 'scar' downwards[
]. 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.