Aesculus austrina Small
Aesculus discolor Pursh
Aesculus humilis Lindl.
Aesculus lyonii Loudon
Aesculus mollis Raf. ex Sarg.
Aesculus octandra discolor (Pursh) Rehder
Aesculus pubescens Starcs
Aesculus rubescens Tausch
Aesculus rubra Pers.
Aesculus splendens Sarg.
Aesculus versicolor Wender.
Aesculus whitleyi K.Koch
Pavia americana J.St.-Hil.
Pavia atropurpurea Spach
Pavia humilis G.Don
Pavia lindleyana Spach
Pavia livida Spach
Pavia lucida Spach
Pavia macrocarpa G.Don
Pavia michauxii Spach
Pavia mutabilis Spach
Pavia nana W.H.Baxter
Pavia octandria Mill.
Pavia pavia Huth
Pavia rubra Moench
Pavia versicolor Spach
Pavia whitleyi K.Koch
Pavia willdenowiana Spach
Paviana coccinea Raf.
Common Name: Red Buckeye
Flowering plant in the United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, USA.
Photograph by: Daderot
Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication
Aesculus pavia is usually a deciduous shrub growing up to 5 metres tall and producing suckers. Sometimes it becomes a tree with large, erect branches that form an open crown; rarely this tree can be up to 12 metres tall with a long bole up to 300cm in diameter[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of medicines, food and materials. A very ornamental shrub, suitble for growing in larger gardens, parks etc, where it can be used to make a hedge or screen.
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 N. America - Virginia to Florida, west to Louisiana
Rich moist soils in deciduous woods, on the sides of streams and swamp margins[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Pollinators||Bees, Humming birds
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Aesculus pavia is said to prefer a continental climate with its hot summers, cold winters and usually a clear movement from one season to another. The dormant plant can tolerate temperatures down to at least -15°c, but in more maritime climates it is often tempted to come into growth early and this new growth can easily be damaged by late spring frosts[
Prefers a position in full sun or partial shade, though it is also tolerant of deeper shade[
]. Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy[
Trees are fast-growing in the wild, though they are also short-lived[
]. They can commence flowering when only 1 metre tall[
]. Plants spread by means of suckers[
Plants can commence flowering when around 1 metre tall[
There are a number of named varieties, developed for their ornamental value. Var. 'Humilis' is a low growing form[
Seedlings quickly develop a taproot and larger plants can be difficult to transplant[
Seed - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 25mm in diameter[
], and is easily harvested. Unfortunately, the seed is also rich in saponins and these need to be removed before it can be eaten. See also the notes above on toxicity.
The following notes apply to Aesculus californica, but are probably also relevant here:-
The seed needs to be leached of 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[
]. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment[
The powdered bark is hypnotic and odontalgic. It is used in the treatment of ulcers[
A poultice of the powdered seeds has been used in the treatment of cancer tumours and infections, and as a salve for sores[
An infusion of the roots has been used as a bath in the treatment of dyspepsia[
The plant can be used to form a large, informal hedge or screen[
Saponins in the seed and roots are 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[
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.
Division of suckers in the dormant season[
]. The suckers can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.