The red buckeye is a small ornamental tree or shrub that is found in the eastern United States, from Illinois to Virginia in the north of its range, and from Texas to Florida in its southern range. It is in the Sapindaceae, or Buckeye, family.
This tree grows to about 10 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet in diameter at maturity. The red flowers produced from April through May give any yard a visual accent, making a wonderful specimen tree.
This species is found in hardiness zones 6 through 9. It grows best in full sun, though it can grow in partial shade. When exposed to partial shad the plant will become rather spindly, and will not show the full extent of its genes. It does well in slightly alkaline to acidic soils that are well-drained and moist. If grown in full sun, red buckeye should be heavily mulched and watered to protect the roots.
The red buckeye serves well as a hedge when the multiple stems are retained, but it can also serve as a flowering tree accent point in a garden or as a focal point in a rain garden.
Apparently, the term “buckeye” comes from the white streak found on each of the seeds, which is reminiscent of the eye of a male deer.
The seeds from this tree are toxic to humans.
The flowers of red buckeye are highly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.
While this species has bright red flowers that are present in April and May each year, a new variety (cultivar) has been developed that has bright yellow flowers. This is the flavescens variety.
The red buckeye is grown and available in the arboretum of the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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