Ohio Buckeye Information:
Ohio buckeye is found growing on fertile, moist soils of bottomlands and river banks throughout most of Ohio but less commonly in the eastern half of the state. It is also known as the fetid or stinking buckeye because the flowers, bruised bark, and broken twigs give off a disagreeable odor.
The Indians named the fruit of the buckeye tree hetuck, meaning the eye of a buck, which it certainly does resemble. Today the buckeye has the distinction of being the state tree of Ohio.
The fresh seeds of this tree are reported to be poisonous to man but not to squirrels. The Indians powdered the seeds and dumped them into small pools. This would stun the fish and make them rise to the surface, where the Indians quickly collected them. It is also reported that a flour made from the seeds makes an excellent library paste which will repel roaches.
The pioneers favored the wood for cabin building and for making furniture. Early settlers cut long, thin shavings, which were then woven into summer hats. Although buckeye wood is now used extensively for making artificial limbs because it is light, easily worked, and resists splitting, it is of little commercial importance.
The State Tree - Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra
Size: small tree of central states, chiefly of Ohio and Mississippi Valley regions, 30'-50' in height, 2'-3' in diameter
Growth: grows best in deep fertile soils, will usually reach maturity in 60-80 years
Leaves: palmately compound with five nearly elliptical, serrate leaflets 4" - 6" long
Buds: large terminal bud (nonresinous)
Branching: stout limbs in opposite positioning
Bark: grey, scaly plates
Flowers: showy, pale white to greenish yellow, branched clusters 4" -6" long
Fruit (nut): 1" -2" seed capsule, somewhat spiny with 1-5 non-edible seeds (nuts) inside
Other information: also known a fetid buckeye, stinking buckeye. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring and drops its leaves early in the fall. Fall leaf coloration is orange to red
Uses: today mostly pulp; in the past - furniture, crates, pallets, caskets, artificial human limbs
Folklore: nut is considered a good luck charm, relieves pain of arthritis and rheumatism, resembles the eye of the buck deer
State Champion Big Tree: circumference - 162"; height 82' crown spread - 67'; location - North Bend, Hamilton County
The Buckeye - Description, Uses and Legend
Botanical Name: The botanical name for the Buckeye is Aesculus which was taken by the Swedish botanist, Carl von Linne from "Aesculapius," the name of the mythological Greek god of medicine. The Ohio variety was named Aesculus glabra, by the German botanist Willdenow in 1809."
Common Name: The common name "Buckeye" was derived from the Native Americans who noticed that the glossy, chestnut-brown seeds with the lighter circular "eye" looked very similar to the eye of a buck (male) deer.
Description of the Ohio Buckeye Seed Nut: The seed nut is glossy and chestnut-brown in color. It is velvety smooth to the touch with lighter circular "eye." It is contained in a spiny, two-inch hull and is set in five palmately compound, five inch long, decidusous leaflets. The leaf formation has been described as "praying hands" by poet Albrecht Duerer. The seeds and bark are slightly poisonous and bitter tasting. The properties can be eliminated by heating and leaching.
Uses by Native Americans and Early Settlers: The Native Americans roasted, peeled and mashed the buckeye nut, which they called "Hetuck," into a nutritional meal. The early settlers found the buckeye wood to be lightweight (28 pounds per cubic foot as compared to 75 pounds per cubic foot for oak), to be readily split, and to be easily carved or whittled. Due to these qualities, the buckeye wood was used by settlers to make utensils. Thin planed strips of the wood were woven into a variety of hats and baskets. The buckeye wood has been found ideal in artificial limbs production due to its lightness and non-splitting characteristics.
Medicinal Properties: Early travellers and explorers carried the rare and curious buckeye to the east with them and reported the Aesculus glabra's highly prized medicinal properties and talismanic attribute of wisdom. The extracts from the inner bark of the nut has been used in cerebro-spinal treatments. Some believe that the buckeye relieves rheumatism pain and provides good fortune when carried in the pockets of their garments or worn as an amulet around the neck. Instantly dubbed "buckeye" in frontier speech, the mysterious nut was used as a general cure-all for generations.
Political Campaign Symbols: As a result of a political remark made by an opposition newspaper, a long cabin decorated with raccoon skins and a string of buckeyes became the symbol of General William Henry Harrison's presidential campaign.
The following became his campaign song:
Oh where, tell me where was your buckeye cabin made?
Twas built among the merry boys who wield the plough and spade,
Where the log cabins stand, in the bonnie buckeye shade.
Oh what, tell me what is to be your cabin's fate?
We'll wheel it to the capital and place it there elate,
for a token and a sign of the bonnie Buckeye state."
As a result, citizens of Ohio became known as "Buckeyes." The buckeye tree was officially adapted as the state tree on October 2, 1953.