|The Mother Load! |
Flickr.com - Rainerschuetz
|Take aim, FIRE!|
The European Horse-chestnut trees of my childhood are rarity in the Mid-atlantic. Our summers don't favor it delicate complexities too well. However, North America has a few of its own native Horse-chestnuts, although here they are commonly referred to as Buckeyes (for the chestnut brown eyes of a male deer or 'buck'). Red Buckeyes, Aesculus pavia are by far one of my favorites and takes pride of place in my backyard. At this time of year it explodes with bright red blooms, that has earn it an alternative common name, the 'Firecracker Plant'. So vibrant is the color, it draws in Ruby throated Hummingbirds that feed from the flowers after its migration from the warmer southern states.
Red Buckeyes become handsome flowering trees in the home landscape, typically growing between 10 to 20 ft tall. They prefer moist sites, but appreciate some shade from the fierce afternoon sun. Past flowering, Buckeye's present an interesting texture in the landscape. The dark green palmately compound leaves give an almost tropical feel, but without feeling out of place.
Apart from its obvious attraction in the landscape, it holds other properties worth mentioning. Early European settlers were rumored to make soap from the roots and the bark was believed to have medicinal properties. Native Americans were known to also crush the branches to exude sap for use it fishing. It is said to 'dope' the fish making them much easier to catch. However, it should not confuse with edible chestnuts, (Castanea sativa), though it does share a name similarity. Seeds from Buckeyes contain a toxin called 'Saponin', common in many plants. Fortunately, it is not easily absorbed by us humans, but will make you feel very sorry for yourself.