Height: To about 20 feet, often a sprawling shrub
Fall Foliage: Fairly attractive yellow to red
Range:Restricted to a crescent-shaped area from Alabama to Virginia
Typical Habitat: A variety of forests; typically grows as an understory species
The Painted Buckeye: Trees That Produce Toxic Nuts
Buckeyes are nut-producing trees and shrubs, which often become quite numerous in the forest understory. But while they produce large nuts that should ostensibly serve as an important food source for local wildlife, these nuts are toxic to most animals – including humans and livestock.
It isn’t clear whether the nuts are toxic to deer (though anecdotal reports of deer feeding heavily on the nuts exist), but squirrels and several bird species are capable of feeding on the nuts without suffering ill effects.
Identification: Tips & Tricks
It can be tricky to identify the particular species of buckeye encountered during a walk through the forest, but the group is easily distinguished from others. One simply needs to spot the oppositely arranged, palmately compound leaves. Flowers and fruit (which, in the case of the painted buckeye are pear-shaped) usually provide the best clues for identifying the specific species in question.
Note that buckeyes are often called horse chestnut trees, thereby representing the “horse” part of the MAD Horse acronym, which is often used to remember the common U.S. tree species with oppositely arranged leaves.
The Painted Buckeye: Additional Information
Want to learn more about this interesting species? Check out these painted buckeye resources:
- North Carolina State Extension: Everything a nature-lover could want in a resource, including a quick-reference chart and several high-quality photographs.
- Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences: While primarily directed at homeowners and landscapers, this resource provides information and photos on several different buckeye species.
- Carolina Nature: A fantastic collection of painted buckeye photos, along with location notes.