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Products > Aesculus californica
Aesculus californica - California Buckeye

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Aesculus californica
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Hippocastanaceae (Horse-chestnut, Buckeyes)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
California Native (Plant List): Yes
Flower Color: Cream
Bloomtime: Spring
Height: 20-30 feet
Width: 15-30 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10° F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Aesculus californica (California Buckeye) - A very showy small deciduous California native tree that can grow to 45 feet in optimum conditions, however in most gardens it grows to 15 to 20 feet. It often has a spreading form that is wider than its height with silvery gray bark and a somewhat flattened canopy that holds attractive palmately compound dark green leaves. In late spring it is a striking sight when its sweet scented creamy white flowers (sometimes pink) emerge in their upright terminal clusters that are 6 to 12 inches long.

Plant in full sun to light shade. It is hardy to around 0° F. Irrigate occasionally to not at all - this tree will naturally go summer deciduous in response to dry or hot conditions, which in some locations in dry years can occur as early as late spring and at other times and locations as late as mid fall. Occasional irrigation in the summer will keep the Buckeye in leaf into the fall and newly emerging leaves in early spring are apple green.

Aesculus californica is native to the coast ranges of California from the Siskiyou Mountains to Los Angeles below 4,000 feet. The name for the genus was a Latin name for a type of oak bearing edible acorns but was applied by Linnaeus to this genus. The specific epithet is in reference to the plant being from California. The large chestnut brown seeds were treated (boiled and leached repeatedly) to provide an emergency food source by indigenous people when acorns were scare, giving it the common names Buckeye and Indian Chestnut, but the untreated seed are considered poisonous to humans and animals. According to Thomas Fuller and Elizabeth McClintock in their Poisonous Plants of California (UC Press 1986) the leaves, flowers, twigs, bark and seed of Aesculus californica are all considered to be toxic as they contain Aesculin, a coumarin glycoside. The common name Buckeye comes from a Native American word for the fruit of the Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra, as "hetuck" meaning "eye of the buck", a reference to the pale scar on the seeds looking like a buck’s eye. Our plants from seed collected from a pink flowering form found growing in Santa Barbara. 

This information about Aesculus californica displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.