About Buckeye & Horse Chestnut Trees

The Aesculus genus includes tree species commonly known as the horse chestnut and the Buckeye.  The true American chestnut (Castanea dentata) produces true chestnuts, and has become rare due to blight.


Both the Buckeye and the Horse Chestnut species of the Aesculus genus are ornamental with showy flowers and fruits.  The mature size and form can vary dramatically from a 10 foot shrubby tree like the Bottlebrush Buckeye, to 50 foot tall ornamental shade tree such as the Ohio Buckeye or the 70 foot tall American Horse Chestnut.  In general the Horse Chestnut trees do not grow as large as the Buckeyes, and are not as hardy.  The Horse Chestnut, however, often has larger flower clusters.


Many Aesculus varieties are commonly grown and highly desirable for their showy red flowers and large interesting fruits, commonly referred to as nuts.  However it is important to be aware that many consider these trees to be very messy, causing troublesome litter on the lawn.  The leaves are typically very large and decompose slowly. The large flower panicles produce a good deal of petal litter when the show is over. 



The fruits, or “nuts”, are also very large and produced in abundance can be a nuisance underfoot and for mowing.  But, there are sterile varieties that will not produce the “nuts”, eliminating the worst of the litter problem.  Horse chestnut wood is not particularly strong, and fallen twigs add to the litter.  Before selecting a Buckeye or Horse Chestnut for your landscape, be sure that the variety you choose will not be a nuisance to you, or choose an appropriate location where any nuisance is not a problem, such as a large mulched area of the landscape. 


Another common problem to all Horse Chestnut and Buckeye trees is leaf scorch.  You can minimize the problem by planting in an area protected from wind, provide adequate moisture, an in part shade, particularly in hotter regions.

The pruning requirements vary for each variety but generally should not be pruned in the first year or two until well established.  Some can be quite severely pruned to maintain a small size and control shape.  Poorly timed pruning can reduce or eliminate the next bloom.

TreesSharon Dwyer