Sunday, October 11, 2009

Looking inside a Buckeye

We have a small-ish number of Buckeye trees on our property. After doing a little research, I discovered that we do not have the "official" state tree of Ohio growing here, though. Instead of Ohio Buckeye trees, we have Yellow Buckeye trees. Yellow Buckeyes are native to central Appalachia and surrounding areas, but within Ohio they are confined to the southeastern counties and the extreme southern counties that border the Ohio river.

Map courtesy of the USDA's Plants Database.

Here's a look at the flower, before the flowers have even begun to open.

And here is the end result of the flowers... a Yellow Buckeye fruit. It is differentiated from the fruit of the Ohio Buckeye by its smooth husk (Ohio Buckeyes are much more bumpy)

Blossom end on the left, stem end on the right.

The husk separated easily along one of its seams with a little help from a pocket knife. Let's look at these nuts.

This particular fruit held 3 nuts. The photo on the left shows the portion that contains 2 of the nuts. The photo on the right shows the entire fruit, cut along each seam and showing all 3 nuts.

Cutting the husk open was a little messy. You can see some goop on my knife in this photo - it was pretty sticky, like sap.

I think it's safe to say that these nuts aren't quite ripe or mature yet. They have some of their characteristic dark brown coloring, but that is not fully developed. Also, notice the moisture along the bottom edge of the husk.

unripened Buckeye nuts

If given a few more weeks, this husk probably would have dried out enough to crack open on its own. It would take some force, like that from the blow of a hammer, to actually shatter the nut (something that I've not yet tried). But there are creatures who have other ways for getting inside them. Stay tuned to see more...

HISTORY NOTE: Why is Ohio known as the Buckeye state? Well, the reasons could be various. I found several possible explanations from various ODNR sources:

One document says:
"In 1840, Gen. William Henry Harrison was elected President of the United States. During his campaign, buckeye wood cabins and buckeye walking sticks became emblems of Ohio’s first citizen to win the highest office in the land. This forever set Ohioans apart as “Buckeyes.” While for many years the Ohio buckeye was considered the state tree of Ohio, the designation was unofficial until 1953, when the Ohio Legislature adopted the Ohio buckeye as the official tree."
The same document also says:
"Another commonly accepted explanation is that the nickname refers to the large number of buckeye trees native to Ohio. However, all accounts generally agree that the name of the buckeye originated from its close resemblance to the eye of the buck deer."
Furthermore, regarding president Harrison's contribution to the nickname:
"As a result of a political remark made by an opposition newspaper, a log cabin decorated with raccoon skins and a string of buckeyes became the symbol of General William Henry Harrison’s presidential campaign," and thus a symbol of the people of Ohio.


Meg said...

Well, that is fascinating. I wonder now whether the tree we had in the park near my old Columbus house was a true Ohio buckeye or the Yellow kind. Even though your map would indicate it was a true buckeye, you never know whether you've got a rogue on your hands! I'll have to check it out next time I am near it.
The pictures you took made me hungry! For the candy, that is : )

Kelly said...

...loved the post!! Our Buckeyes down here are not ripe yet either. I always heard it was the last story that started the buckeye thing. His opposition made fun of his woodsy heritage, and he decided to go with it...totally campaigning with the stereotype and winning! It's interesting!

Monika said...

Interesting stuff - I don't know that I've seen buckeye fruits before. You have some beautiful shots of them, too. Thanks for the history as well, I always wondered where "Buckeye state" came from.

Gabrielle said...

That's really cool, seeing the still-ripening fruits. I love your child-like curiosity (the mark of a true naturalist) and that we get to follow along. Thanks!!!

Mary said...


Oh, it's been too long since I've been here or anywhere in the blogosphere, for that matter.

Your blog has taken on a new look that I love! I would love to know what template you are using and how you were able to enlarge your photos so well without distorting them. I haven't found a way to enlarge mine without some trouble. I understand there are many ways to enlarge them (I upload from Flickr, copy and paste the html code into my blog and edit the sizes there.) My template won't allow sizes are great as yours!

Awesome photos.


Heather said...

Meg - I did read that there are man-made hybrids of Ohio/Yellow Buckeye, so it could even be a cross! Sorry to get you craving chocolate and peanut butter... ; )

Kelly - I'll take that "woodsy heritage" any day!

Monika - They are an interesting looking fruit. Glad the post was informative for you.

Gabrielle - It's always fun to take along those who enjoy the ride! Come along any time!

Mary - So good to see you, thanks for stopping by. Glad you like the facelift here. I use the Minima Stretch template and made the width of the main posting element larger than 800 pixels (I'd have to look at my code to see the exact dimensions). I mostly use Picasa for uploading my pics (also by pasting some code), but Picasa handles the resizing for me. I'm not familiar with Flickr, so I don't know how uploading from there works. Sorry I can't be of more help!