Sunday, October 5, 2014

Buckeyes: Beginning to End

This past weekend was red buckeye harvest time at my yard. My red buckeye shrubs (Aesculus pavia) had ripening nuts to collect and I wanted to get most of them ahead of the squirrels. I know the squirrels do get some – I have found stray seedlings throughout the yard thanks to their efforts in previous years.

April flowers of Aesculus pavia

Red buckeye is a beautiful native shrub. It has several characteristics which endear it to gardeners: the fat leaf buds swell and unfurl in February when the human soul needs a sign of spring; bright red blooms open in early April; it is popular with returning hummingbirds; and it thrives in partial shade conditions. In addition, its tree-like habit allows it to substitute for a small tree in tight spaces. Of course the squirrels love those nuts, but who’s planting for them?

Seedling leaves in January
A bee works on pollination

My oldest plant - over 12 years old

This year the plant is being celebrated as Plant of the Year by the Georgia Native Plant Society. What a great time for my plants to have their best year ever! After a cold winter, the flowers were numerous and the hummingbirds were happy. I was taking pictures of the flowers one afternoon and a hummingbird zipped right by me, stopping to sip at several flowers.

Nuts forming

Both hummingbirds and bees help to pollinate these flowers, and they certainly did a great job. I probably have collected 150-200 nuts this year from 5 plants, although most of them came from the largest and earliest blooming one. Nuts form in pods in quantities from 1 to 4. Pods of one have the largest nuts while pods of 4 have the smallest. The nuts are separated in the pods by thin walls.

I plant most of my nuts in pots and raise them as seedlings for the plant sales hosted by the Georgia Native Plant Society. It is always a popular item at the sales. Since this year it was the Society’s plant of the year, it was especially in demand.

A small portion of the harvest

Two of the plants that bore nuts this year were plants that I had grown from seeds of the oldest shrub that I have. They are easy to grow from seeds.

When grown in ideal conditions (plentiful morning sun and good moisture), I’ve had seedlings bloom in the third year. It’s been fun to come full circle with those plants. Red buckeye is one of my favorite plants - I hope you’ll give it a try too.


  1. Wow! What an impressive haul you got! I have four plants but none of them have bloomed yet. Your 12 year old plant is impressive! I look forward to the day that we get nuts!

  2. Here in the piney woods of east Texas ours die back in the late summer but they return in the spring to bloom!! Just in time for the hummingbird migration.