The other day I was exploring a wooded area here in southeast Michigan that I hadn’t visited before. In a low, moist area near a creek, this location had a number of trees I see all the time near rivers, including eastern cottonwoods, American sycamores, and silver maples. What stood out to me were the Ohio buckeyes (Aesculus glabra, Hippocastanaceae) that were also present in large numbers. I don’t really see these trees in my usual haunts, so I thought they were interesting.
The attractive clusters of small, bright yellow flowers made this tree more noticeable than others. Once pollinated, these flowers develop into the walnut-sized nuts known as buckeyes.
The palmately-compound leaves were already far more developed than the leaves of other trees in the area. This is one of the earliest trees to leaf out in the spring (Nesom 2001).
All parts of this plant are toxic and can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, nausea, and vomiting. For this reason many livestock owners remove them from their property to protect their animals from poisoning (Nesom 2001). In wild areas like this, however, they’re free to thrive.
Nesom, G. 2001. Plant Guide: Ohio Buckeye. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.