Sunday, May 5, 2013

Buckeyes headed into Spring

 These pictures reveal the opening of red buckeye flowers (Aesculus pavia). They are beautiful at all stages. This year the progression has been slower than usual, I suppose because of the cool wet weather this spring. I look forward to a bumper crop of buckeyes. The wildlife around here are looking forward to that event also.  Unless I check the bush every day when the seed pods begin to open in the fall, I won't harvest any. The seed must be very nutritious as they are relished by squirrels, chipmunks, and rats and mice. (They are reputed to be poisonous to humans, but we know rodents can eat almost anything.) I have found several apparent seedlings near and under my bushes and I guess they were missed in the harvest, or hidden and forgotten by squirrels.
 The red flowers make a beautiful splash in the landscape and woods in spring, and I am usually surprised to see them in the woods in places I had not noticed before. Keep your eyes peeled on woodlots as you drive along and you are likely to see their bright flowers. The flowers provide a nectar source for eastern swallowtail butterflies, as well as bumble bees and carpenter bees.
  Red buckeyes bloom in both shade and sun but white or bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) do best in shade. Altho bottlebrush buckeyes bloom in sun, their leaves get a washed out cast that makes me wish I had been more thoughtful of their wishes. Both red and white buckeyes are said to be native to the southeast, but I have never seen a white one in the wild. That could be because they are less spectacular in bloom and not at all spectacular when not in bloom, but they have the same big brown shiny seed. The seed make great worry "stones' and some people still use them as good luck charms.
 If you want to transplant one, get your back ready to dig. They have deep roots (this makes them drought tolerant), and they suffer for 2 or 3 years after transplant from the ground. If you want to grow them from seed, plant the seed right after it ripens. They will not germinate after they dry out. Plant them where you want them to grow and let nature do the rest, but do keep in mind that the resulting bush will be quite large in a few years.

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