The Buckeye Tree can be found in many states throughout the US. However, the state of Ohio has such a fascination with the tree that it is called the Buckeye state. They even designated the Buckeye Tree as the official state tree of Ohio in 1953. Native Americans realized that Buckeye nuts looked like a buck deer’s eye. Therefore, the tree took on the name of the Buckeye Tree.
It should be noted that the nuts, leaves and sprouts of the tree are poisonous to humans if ingested raw. Nuts can only be eaten after they have been roasted or boiled and the toxins leeched from them. Animals that eat them will also become sick or even die. They are not poisonous to squirrels that readily collect and eat them. The seeds start to ripen in August and are fully ripe in September and October. The nuts of the tree stay in the shell until they are ripe and then the shell opens up and the seeds drop out while the shell remains on the tree. The seed is a glossy brown and shiny in texture and appearance.
The Ohio Buckeye Tree is a small, deciduous tree and belongs to the Horsechestnut Family. The average tree will only reach a height of between 30 to 50 feet. The width of the trunk of the tree is usually no larger then 2 to 3 feet in diameter. However, a record-sized tree was recorded in Huron County, Ohio. It was 77 feet tall and the branches reached to 64 feet in width. The bark of the tree is grey in color and a scaly plate texture. The leaves of the tree are four to six inches in length and a palmately compound with typically 5 leaflets on each. The flowers of the tree have 4 pedals that range from yellow to a creamy white in color. The pistils at the end of the flower make it look like a claw in appearance.
The nuts of the tree were used in the past by native Americans for food. They would roast the nuts to remove the toxins and then grind them up into a paste that they called Hetuck. They would then use the nutritious paste to cook with. The nuts have also been used to relieve arthritis inflammation, hemorrhoids and rashes. The nuts are also used as a good luck charm, promoted by many and sold to people who carry them around in their pockets and purses. Others have dried the nuts and strung them, making beaded Buckeye necklaces or garland.