Red Buckeye

red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is a native, deciduous, tree that can grow to a mature height of 30 feet. It is in the Sapindaceae, soapberry, family.

It occurs naturally in woodland hammocks, sandhills, and limestone rich woods and forests.  It can be found along the eastern coast of the United States and is salt tolerant.

In the home landscape red buckeye does best planted as an understory tree.  It grows in part shade with average to moist soils.

The leaves are palmately compound with five, to occasionally seven, leaflets.  The leaves are opposite on the branches with long petioles and measure 18 – 30 cm in length. The leaf margins are finely toothed.

The flowers appear in the spring, mid-March and April in central Florida, in clusters of red tubular blooms.  Hummingbirds find them irresistible.  Red buckeye blooms are a reliable source of nectar in the spring for a hummingbird garden.

The fruit is a large, 3 – 6 cm, brown, dehiscent, capsule.  Inside the fruit are one to two large seeds that are shiny, reddish, brown.  The seeds are poisonous.

red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and ruby-throated hummingbird

The crushed seeds have been used to stun fish for easy capture, a decoction of the bark has been used for ulcers and toothaches, and the roots are said to make a very acceptable soap alternative. [1]

As previously mentioned the main use by wildlife is a nectar source for hummingbirds in the spring.  The flowers are also visited by large butterflies such as cloudless sulphurs for their nectar.  

Propagation is most easily achieved with fresh seeds. Only fresh seeds will germinate so once the fruit starts to split open, along the adhesions, the seeds should be collected and placed in soil to germinate. Germination rate with fresh seeds is generally as high as one hundred percent.  

It is native to: AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WV.

Red buckeye grows in zones 4a to 9b.

[1] Coker, William Chambers, and H. R. Totten. Trees of Southeastern States, Including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Northern Florida. The University of North Carolina Press, 1945.

red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) fruit

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