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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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(Information Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources)