Botanical Name: Aesculus flava
Species: A. flava
Common Names: Sweet Buckeye, Yellow buckeye
Habitat: Aesculus flava is native to the Ohio Valley and Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States. It grows in mesophytic forest or floodplains, generally in acid to circumneutral soil, reaching a height of 20m to 48m (65 ft to 154 ft) Rich river-bottoms and mountain slopes. Woodland on moist rich soils.
Aesculus flava is a deciduous tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a medium rate.
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
The leaves are palmately compound with five (rarely seven) leaflets, 10–25 cm long and broad. The flowers are produced in panicles in spring, yellow to yellow-green, each flower 2–3 cm long with the stamens shorter than the petals (unlike the related A. glabra (Ohio buckeye), where the stamens are longer than the petals). The twigs have a faintly rank odor, but much less so than the Ohio buckeye, A. glabra. The fruit is a smooth (spineless), round or oblong capsule 5–7 cm diameter, containing 1-3 nut-like seeds, 2.5-3.5 cm diameter, brown with a whitish basal scar. The fruit is poisonous to humans but can be made edible through a leaching process.
Landscape Uses:Pest tolerant, Pollard, Specimen. Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy. Grows best in eastern and south-eastern areas of England probably needing a continental climate in order to thrive. Although the trees are very hardy when dormant, the new growth can be damaged by late spring frosts. Plants grow well in a woodland situation, tolerating shading by larger trees. Seedlings grow away quickly, the plants reaching maturity when about 60 – 80 years old. The form Asculus flava vestita (Sarg.)Fern. is growing well at Kew Gardens. It has been seen with large crops of fruit on a number of occasions, even in cooler summers. These fruits have only been tried when immature (harvested at the end of August) but were then very tasty with no bitterness. Fruits are produced more abundantly in warm summers. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Blooms are very showy.
Seed – cooked. Said to be as sweet as a chestnut. We have only eaten the immature seed, harvested in late August, but these were very tasty with no noticeable bitterness. The seed can be up to 45mm in diameter and is easily harvested. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed contains saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the North American 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. The resulting product is said to be tasty and nutritious, though most of the minerals etc would have been leached out. The flowers contain a sweet nectar which is delicious when sucked out.
Medicinal Uses: Not known.
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 – very soft, light, close grained, difficult to split. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot. It is used for making artificial limbs, wooden ware, pulp etc, and is occasionally sawn into lumber.
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.
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.