What's Special about the Ohio Buckeye Tree?

Ohio Buckeye Tree Fruit
Fruit of the Ohio Buckeye Tree

It's interesting how the buckeye tree is such a fascination in the state of Ohio.  Ohio is considered "the buckeye state" and the buckeye nut is the mascot for The Ohio State University.

So what's so special about buckeyes?


The Name

The name “Buckeye” came from the Native Americans who noticed that the glossy, chestnut-brown seeds with the lighter circular “eye” looked very similar to the eye of a buck (male) deer.

The Buckeye Nut

The nut is probably the main attraction of the tree.  As kids, we used to collect them by the bushel basket.  We never did anything with them but we thought they were "cool". 

The nut is a glossy brown color and very smooth.  The nuts are contained in a spiny hull until they ripen in September.  The hull opens and they fall to the ground.  Many times there are multiple nuts in a hull. 

The nuts are slightly poisonous and shouldn't be eaten unless they are heated and leached.

Used by Native Americans and Early Settlers

Native Americans roasted, peeled and mashed the buckeye nut, which they called “Hetuck,” into a nutritional meal. 

Early travelers carried the rare buckeye to the east with them and reported its medicinal properties.  The nut was believed to help with spinal treatments.

Ohio Buckeye Nut
Nut from the Ohio Buckeye Tree

Good Luck Charm

The nut of the buckeye tree is also considered to be a good luck charm and also a relief for rheumatism pain if you carry it in your pocket.  Try it and let us know if it works for you.  Even if you don't find good fortune by carrying it around it's still an interesting looking nut.

The Buckeye State

Most people are aware that Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, but why?  How did a state become associated with a nut-bearing tree?  During football season the folks in Michigan probably have a few ideas of their own.

One of the stories is that it originated from the presidential campaign of  General William Henry Harrison n 1840.

A log cabin decorated with raccoon skins and a string of buckeyes became the symbol of Harrison's campaign.  The following became his campaign song:

“Oh where, tell me where was your buckeye cabin made?
Twas built among the merry boys who wield the plough and spade,
Where the log cabins stand, in the bonnie buckeye shade.

Oh what, tell me what is to be your cabin’s fate?
We’ll wheel it to the capital and place it there elate,
for a token and a sign of the bonnie Buckeye state.”

As a result, citizens of Ohio became known as “Buckeyes.”


Ohio Buckeye Bloom
Bloom of the Ohio Buckeye Tree

Additional Information:

Read more about why Ohio is known as the Buckeye State and Ohioans are known as "Buckeyes" .  This document from the Ohio Division of Forestry also provides more information on the Ohio Buckeye and Yellow Buckeye (downloadable PDF file - 255K)

Click here for information on how to grow your own buckeye tree (downloadable PDF file - 97K)

The buckeye tree was officially adapted as the state tree on October 2, 1953.

Buckeye Nut Pictures

-- Click images for larger pictures --

Ohio Buckeye Fruit
Buckeye Fruit
Buckeye Nuts
Buckeye Nuts
Buckeye Nuts
Buckeye Nuts

Buckeye Tree Facts:

Ohio Buckeye Tree,  Aesculus glabra
  • Size: small tree of central states, chiefly of Ohio and Mississippi Valley regions, 30’-50’ in height, 2’-3’ in diameter
  • Growth: grows best in deep fertile soils, will usually reach maturity in 60-80 years
  • Leaves: palmately compound with five nearly elliptical, serrate leaflets 4” - 6” long
  • Buds: large terminal bud (nonresinous)
  • Branching: stout limbs in opposite positioning
  • Bark: grey, scaly plates
  • Flowers: showy, pale white to greenish yellow, branched clusters 4” -6” long
  • Fruit (nut): 1” -2” seed capsule, somewhat spiny with 1-5 non-edible seeds (nuts) inside
    Other information: also known a fetid buckeye, stinking buckeye. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring and drops its leaves early in the fall. Fall leaf coloration is orange to red
  • Uses: today mostly pulp; in the past - furniture, crates, pallets, caskets, artificial human limbs
  • Folklore: nut is considered a good luck charm, relieves pain of arthritis and rheumatism, resembles the eye of the buck deer
  • State Champion Big Tree: circumference - 140”; height 77’ crown spread - 64’; location - Greenwich, Huron County
  • :


(Information Source:  Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

NW Ohio Nature Oak Leaf