Ohio Buckeye

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This is an interesting tree that has been totally missed by most cities as a good candidate for parks and boulevards. Even home owners might consider this tree as a good back yard tree. It prefers moister soils that are drained. Most back yards in the city fit this description where the construction companies have scraped away and sold every inch of topsoil. What is left for home owners to deal with is wet subsoil. Ohio Buckeye is very adaptive to moist soils in urban conditions.

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It is the very first tree to break out in leaf in the spring and has a horse chestnut look to it. In fact, it is usually confused with the horse chestnut, imported from the Balkans in the 1700’s to North America. The Ohio Buckeye is a Carolinian tree native to this area. By June, there are large, showy, upright flower clusters. But it is the fruit, a shiny nut, that the tree is named after. The colour, size and shine of the beautiful nut resembles a buck’s eye. Beware – the nuts and the bark are considered poisonous. Interestingly enough, the nuts are highly sought after by squirrels in the fall. There are rarely any nuts to rake once the squirrels have finished their harvest.

Ohio Buckeye are scarce in this area due to the fact that farmers and settlers waged war on this pretty tree thinking to avoid livestock poisonings. Just like chestnuts, Ohio buckeye suffer from leaf scorch, leaf blotch and powdery mildew. Most books do not seem to recommend the tree for the back yard because they will drop their leaves early in the fall and not really offer any fall colour. To avoid premature leaf drop due to leaf scorch, plant Ohio Buckeye in partial to full shade to avoid the scorching by the sun.

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We think this tree has a lot to offer. They are considered small in height for a tree but the spread of the canopy equals that of its height. As a pollinator tree – you can’t beat it. Everything from bees to hummingbirds visit this tree once in bloom. In the winter, the Ohio Buckeye is quite resistant to ice damage. Maybe it is time we rethink our urban tree choices and add the Carolinian Ohio Buckeye to the planting list.