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Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia

Type Categories Useful Parts


Hippocastanaceae Family

Aesculus Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Firecracker Plant, scarlet


Southeastern North America from North Carolina to central Florida and west to southern Illinois and eastern Texas

Physical Description
Red buckeye is usually a single stemmed, rather open small tree only 8-10 ft (2.4-3 m) tall, although they have been known (rarely) to reach over 30 ft (9 m) in height. The attractive leaves, 5-10 in (12.7-25.4 cm) across, are palmately compound with five (occasionally seven) serrated leaflets radiating from the ends of 4-6 in (10-12.7 cm) petioles (leaf stems). They are velvety purple-green at first unfolding. The showy red flowers are arranged in 4-10 in (10-25.4 cm) terminal spikes (called racemes) and appear along with the leaves in early spring. The fruit is a smooth, thin-walled capsule, 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) in diameter containing 1-3 poisonous seeds that look very much like chestnuts.

General Information

Early settlers made a soap substitute from its gummy roots, and they made home remedies from its bitter bark. Native American Indians used crushed branches from this tree and other buckeyes to drug fish in order to make them easier to catch.

Medicinal Uses: The powdered bark is hypnotic and odontalgic. It is used in the treatment of ulcers. A poultice of the powdered seeds has been used in the treatment of cancer tumors and infections, and as a salve for sores. An infusion of the roots has been used as a bath in the treatment of dyspepsia

Food Uses: Seed - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 25mm in diameter, and is easily harvested. Unfortunately, the seed is also rich in saponins and these need to be removed before it can be eaten. See also the notes above on toxicity. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here: - The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment

Other Uses: Soap may be obtained from the roots and a black dye from the wood

Warning: Due to the presence of saponins in the seeds and young shoots the plant is toxic. The symptoms of poisoning are Abdominal pain, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Skin irritation, Dilated pupils, Impaired coordination, Hyperthermia, Muscle weakness, Breathing difficulty, Coma

Red Buckeye

Red Buckeye

Red Buckeye
Branch and Leaves

Comment: Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia

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