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Aesculus californica - (Spach.)Nutt.

Common Name Californian Buckeye, California Horsechestnut
Family Hippocastanaceae
USDA hardiness 6-10
Known Hazards The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K]. The flowers of this plant are toxic to bees[94].
Habitats Moist stream borders, scrub and the edges of oak and pine woods in canyons and dry slopes below 1200 metres[71, 184, 229].
Range South-western N. America - California.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Aesculus californica Californian Buckeye, California Horsechestnut


(c) ken Fern, Plants For A Future 2010
Aesculus californica Californian Buckeye, California Horsechestnut
(c) Steve Flanagan

 

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Summary

Bloom Color: Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Aesculus californica is a deciduous Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen in September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Synonyms

Pavia californica.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Secondary;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses:

Seed - cooked[22, 46, 63, 92, 94, 95]. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a gruel[2]. The seed contains about 23% protein and has an agreeable taste[213]. The seed is large, and can be up to 5cm in diameter[82]. It is often produced abundantly in the warmer areas of Britain and is easily harvested[K]. This was the most commonly used Aesculus species in N. America[213]. It does, however, contain poisonous saponins (see the notes above on toxicity) and so needs careful preparation before being eaten. The seed needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days[213]. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment[K].

Composition
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Fresh weight)
  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 23g; Fat: 0g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 0g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses



Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Expectorant;  Odontalgic;  Salve.

The seed contains saponins and can be used as an expectorant[94]. The crushed fruit is applied as a salve on haemorrhoids[257]. A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of toothache and loose teeth[257].

Other Uses

Friction sticks;  Soap;  Wood.

The seed is rich in saponins, these are used as a soap substitute[169]. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts[K]. Wood - soft, light, very close grained[82]. Of no value as a lumber[229]. The wood was used as friction sticks for making fire by the North American Indians[257].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Erosion control, Specimen. Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy[11]. Requires a position in full sun[200]. Prefers dry sunny locations[126]. Although fairly hardy throughout Britain, it grows best in areas where winter temperatures do not fall below -10°c[200]. A moderately fast-growing and long-lived tree in the wild[229], in Britain it grows best in eastern and south-eastern England. Plants thrives at Kew[11]. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large[11]. Special Features:North American native, Flowers have an unpleasant odor, Blooms are very showy.

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Propagation

Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[11, 80]. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather[130]. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable[80, 113]. It is best to sow the seed with its 'scar' downwards[130]. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Aesculus chinensisChinese Horse Chestnut31
Aesculus flavaSweet Buckeye, Yellow buckeye40
Aesculus glabraOhio Buckeye, Fetid Buckeye21
Aesculus hippocastanumHorse Chestnut, European Horsechestnut, Common Horsechestnut34
Aesculus indicaIndian Horse Chestnut31
Aesculus parvifloraBottlebrush buckeye21
Aesculus paviaRed Buckeye21
Aesculus turbinataJapanese Horse Chestnut20
Aesculus x carneaRed Horse Chestnut, Ruby Red Horsechestnut21

 

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Expert comment

Author

(Spach.)Nutt.

Botanical References

1171200

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Pete Kraak   Tue Mar 14 2006

I often wonder what uses these toxins can provide us as a natural poisen to insects. Perhaps to the Africanized honey bee, which is moving north into California if not already here. Or as a lawn and garden spray to kill what is not use to its toxins. It would be safer than the usual suspects.Just a thought.

Herald Reaves   Tue Jul 10 2007

Usual suspects being what killed a great number of the honey bee population in the fall of 2006? Or usual suspects being some form of pesticide we use at ground level for home and garden use? Please specify usual suspects. Before fall 2007.

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Subject : Aesculus californica  
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