Ohio Buckeye
The tree species Aesculus glabra is commonly known as Ohio buckeye, American buckeye, or fetid buckeye.

It is native primarily to the Midwestern and lower Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 regions of the United States, extending southeast into the Nashville Basin
Nashville Basin
The Nashville Basin, also known as the Central Basin, is a term often used to describe the area surrounding Nashville, Tennessee. The Central Basin was caused by an uplifting known as the Nashville Dome. The Nashville Dome is evidenced by the underlying rock strata that all dip downwards away from...

. It is also found locally in the extreme southwest of Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, on Walpole Island
Walpole Island
Walpole Island is an island and Indian reserve in southwestern Ontario, Canada, on the border between Ontario and Michigan in the United States. It is located in the mouth of the St. Clair River on Lake St. Clair, approximately thirty miles northeast of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario.In...

 in Lake St. Clair
Lake Saint Clair (North America)
Lake St. Clair is a fresh-water lake named after Clare of Assisi that lies between the Province of Ontario and the State of Michigan, and its midline also forms the boundary between Canada and the United States of America. Lake St. Clair includes the Anchor Bay along the Metro Detroit coastline...

, and in isolated populations in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. It is a medium-sized deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 growing to 15–25 m (50–82 ft.) tall.

The leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are palmately compound with five (rarely seven) leaflets, 8–16 cm (3-6 in.) long and broad. The flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are produced in panicle
A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

s in spring, yellow to yellow-green, each flower 2–3 cm (3/4 - 1⅛ in.) long with the stamens longer than the petals (unlike the related Yellow Buckeye
Yellow Buckeye
Yellow Buckeye is a species of buckeye native to the Ohio Valley and Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 20–47 m tall...

, where the stamens are shorter than the petals). The fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 is a round or oblong spiny capsule 4–5 cm (1½ - 2 in.)diameter, containing 1-3 nut
Nut (fruit)
A nut is a hard-shelled fruit of some plants having an indehiscent seed. While a wide variety of dried seeds and fruits are called nuts in English, only a certain number of them are considered by biologists to be true nuts...

-like seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s, 2–3 cm (3/4 - 1⅛ in.) in diameter, brown with a whitish basal scar.

The fruits contain tannic acid
Tannic acid
Tannic acid is a specific commercial form of tannin, a type of polyphenol. Its weak acidity is due to the numerous phenol groups in the structure...

, and are poisonous for cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

, and possibly humans. Native Americans would blanch them, extracting the tannic acid for use in leather.

Symbolism and uses

The Ohio buckeye is the state tree of Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 and an original term of endearment for the pioneers on the Ohio frontier, with specific association with William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

. Capt. Daniel Davis of the Ohio Company of Associates
Ohio Company of Associates
The Ohio Company of Associates, also known as the Ohio Company, was a land company which is today credited with becoming the first non-American Indian group to settle in the present-day state of Ohio...

, under Gen. Rufus Putnam, traversed the wilderness in the spring of 1788, and began the settlement of Ohio. Davis was said to be the second man ashore at Point Harmar, 7 April 1788, and he declared later that he cut the first tree felled by a settler west of the Ohio River, a "buckeye" tree. Additionally, Colonel Ebenezer Sproat
Ebenezer Sproat
Ebenezer Sproat , surname also spelled Sprout, was an officer of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, a pioneer to the Ohio Country, and one of the founders of Marietta, Ohio, the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory...

, another founder of that same pioneer city of Marietta
Marietta, Ohio
Marietta is a city in and the county seat of Washington County, Ohio, United States. During 1788, pioneers to the Ohio Country established Marietta as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory. Marietta is located in southeastern Ohio at the mouth...

, had a tall and commanding presence; he greatly impressed the local Indians
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, who in admiration dubbed him “Hetuck”, meaning eye of the buck deer, or Big Buckeye. Some historians believe this is how Ohio came to be known as the Buckeye State, though a more commonly accepted explanation involves the later presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...


Subsequently, the word was used as the nickname of The Ohio State University's sports teams, was adopted officially by the school as its nickname in 1950, and came to be applied to any student or graduate of the university. The buckeye confection, made to resemble the tree's nut, is made by dipping a ball of peanut butter
Peanut butter
Peanut butter is a food paste made primarily from ground dry roasted peanuts, popular in North America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and parts of Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia. It is mainly used as a sandwich spread, sometimes in combination as in the peanut butter and jelly...

 fudge in milk chocolate, leaving a circle of the peanut butter exposed. These are a popular treat in Ohio, especially during the Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and NCAA college football seasons.

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.

Further reading

  • Darbyshire, S. J., & Oldham, M. J. (1985). Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, on Walpole Island, Lambton County, Ontario. Canad. Field-Nat. 99: 370-372.
  • Farrar, J.R. (1995). Ohio Buckeye. Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. (Markham, Ontario) and the Canadian Forest Service
    Canadian Forest Service
    The Canadian Forest Service is a sector of the Canadian government department of Natural Resources Canada. Part of the federal government since 1899, the CFS is a science-based policy organization responsible for promoting the sustainable development of Canada's forests and competitiveness of the...

    (Ottawa). pg. 157. are the size of colemans nuts

External links

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