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Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Red Buckeye In mid-April, a Red Buckeye is in full bloom next to the Arboretum Visitors Center. This tree belongs to the Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae). It is one of four Buckeye species in East Tennessee— other buckeyes found in our area include Yellow Buckeye (A. flava), Ohio Buckeye (A. glabra), and Painted Buckeye (A. sylvatica). Horse Chestnut (A. hippocastanum), which is frequently planted in urban areas, is also a member of this genus.

Red Buckeye Branch Red Buckeye Flower Red Buckeye is found throughout the Southeastern U.S. in mesic deciduous woods, low woodlands, swamp margins, and along river edges. This small tree typically grows to heights of 15-20 ft, but occasionally it can attain heights up to 35 ft or more. As with other buckeyes, it had opposite, palmate leaves with 5 shiny green leaflets. The bright red tubular flowers, borne in erect panicles, have 4 petals. These flowers provide an early food source for migrating hummingbirds and butterflies. In the autumn Red Buckeye produces pear-shaped brown fruits with 1-2 glossy brown seeds, which contain saponins, a substance toxic to humans. Red Buckeye is often used for landscape plantings. The roots have been used to make soap, and the wood to make a black dye. Native Americans placed crushed seeds and other parts of the plant in water to “drug” fish—causing them to float to the surface for easier catching.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu