Ohio Buckeye

Botanical Name :Aesculus glabra
Family : Hippocastanaceae / Sapindaceae
Genus: Aesculus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales
Species: A. glabra

Common Names: Ohio buckeye, American buckeye, or fetid buckeye(It derives its unflattering common name from the disagreeable odor generated from the flowers, crushed leaves, broken twigs, or bruised bark.)

Habitat :
Ohio buckeye grows mostly on mesophytic sites in western Pennsylvania to Nebraska, south to Tennessee and Oklahoma, Ohio, and southern Michigan west to Illinois and central Iowa. Its range extends south to eastern Kansas, southwestern Oklahoma, and central Texas; east to western Arkansas, Tennessee, and central Alabama with one location in eastern Mississippi . It has been planted in Europe and the eastern United States; in eastern Massachusetts, Minnesota, and western Kansas

Usually found in 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 .

Description:
A deciduous Tree growing to 20m.  The leaves are palmately compound with five (rarely seven) leaflets, 8–16 cm (3-6 in.) long and broad. The flowers are produced in panicles in spring, yellow to yellow-green, each flower 2–3 cm (3/4 – 1 1/8 in.) long with the stamens longer than the petals (unlike the related Yellow Buckeye, where the stamens are shorter than the petals). The fruit is a round or oblong spiny capsule 4–5 cm (1 1/2 – 2 in.)diameter, containing 1-3 nut-like seeds, 2–3 cm (3/4 – 1 1/8 in.) diameter, brown with a whitish basal scar.

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Flowering and Fruiting– Ohio buckeye is polygamo-monoecious, bearing both bisexual and male flowers. The pale greenish-yellow flowers appear after the leaves in the spring from March to May and are borne in upright branched clusters. Only those near the base of the branches of a cluster are perfect and fertile; the others are staminate . The fruit is a leathery capsule containing one, two, or three seeds. The ripe seed is dark chocolate to chestnut brown, smooth and shiny, with a large, light-colored hilum so that it resembles an eye. ‘The cotyledons are very thick and fleshy and contain no endosperm.

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It is hardy to zone 5 and is frost tender. It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation :-
Prefers a deep loamy 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. In Britain, it grows best in eastern and south-eastern areas of England probably needing a continental climate in order to thrive. Although the trees are hardy when dormant, the new growth can be damaged by late spring frosts. The twigs, bark, flowers and leaves all produce a foetid odour if crushed. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large.

Propagation:-
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. 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.

Constituents:-The fruits contain tannic acid, and are poisonous for cattle, and possibly humans, although they are often eaten by badgers. Native Americans would blanch them, extracting the tannic acid for use in leather.

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Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Seed.
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 Indians 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.

The buckeye confection, made to resemble the tree’s nut, is made by dipping a spoonful of peanut butter fudge in milk chocolate, leaving a circle of the peanut butter exposed. These are a popular treat in Ohio, especially during the Christmas and NCAA college football seasons

Medicinal  Actions &  Uses
Antispasmodic; Miscellany.
Minute doses of the seed are used internally in the treatment of spasmodic coughs, asthma and internal irritations. It 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.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Other Uses:-
Soap; Wood.:The wood is light and soft and is used for pulpwood, woodenware, and occasionally for lumber….CLICK & SEE

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.

In addition to using the tannic acid for leatherworking, Native Americans would roast and peel the nut, and mash the contents into a nutritional meal they called “Hetuck”.

The buckeye nuts can also be dried, turning dark as they harden with exposure to the air, and strung onto necklaces. These are particularly popular among Ohio State fans.

Known Hazards : 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.

The seeds as well as the bark of Ohio buckeye are reported to be poisonous, and the Aesculus 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 seed are apparently eaten by squirrels. In Ohio, it constitutes 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 . Thus, it seems probable that the use of buckeye seed for food by animals is not a limiting factor in its reproduction.

Fox squirrels in Illinois were observed eating the pith from terminal twigs . Buckeye pith contains 66 percent raffinose, a sweet-tasting 18-carbon sugar that is much sweeter and contains potentially more energy than sucrose.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Aesculus+glabra
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/aesculus/glabra.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesculus_glabra

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