The Ohio buckeye is the state tree of Ohio but grows throughout the mid-western United States. In the wild it grows on rich soil in river valleys. It is not quite as large as the Balkan horsechestnut (A. hippocastanum) but still large and broad crowned. The leaves are more slender than those of its European cousin and the dense foliage creates deep shade.
This buckeye comes into leaf early, followed soon after by the flowers, yellowish-green “candlesticks”, less showy than the Balkan species because the flowers don’t open completely. Ohio buckeye is at its best in autumn when it turns a fiery orange.
Both the thick corky bark and the flowers smell unpleasant, warning of their poisonous nature. The poisonous spiky-coated seeds and roots were sometimes used by Native Americans for fishing – seeds thrown into a pool stunned the fish, which could then be caught by hand.
Mustila staff made a collecting trip to the USA in 1993 and enthusiastically gathered seed from trees growing at the edges of the cold prairies. Trees from this collection now grow – and flower - as far north as Oulu. An exception among American species, the Ohio buckeye hardens off early for winter so that its autumn colour can be enjoyed before winter sets in.