There is an unwritten rule in Ohio that every grandparent should have an Ohio Buckeye Tree in their back yard.
The official tree of the State of Ohio, the Ohio Buckeye often gets a bad rap as a messy tree and a worthless tree. Steubenville native George Mosel in his autobiography Under the Buckeye Trees wrote, Unquestionably, God made the buckeye tree especially for little boys to play under. It has no other earthly use, to man or beast. It's bark and fruit are poisonous. The wood is so light that it shrinks 50% of its weight in drying. No lumber yard would think of stocking it, even for firewood since it gives off an offensive odor.
While many deem it a worthless tree, the Ohio Buckeye is an important source of nectar and pollen to hummingbirds and pollinators. The spring flowers stand like large candles about the foliage of the tree and provide a nice display. The fruit are the most noteworthy characteristic of the tree which come about in fall. Aside from small children the nut is most prized by squirrels. The buckeyes are borne in a somewhat smooth yet prickly hull. The hull is not as sharp or lethal as that of its cousin, the Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which often grows in close proximity to the Ohio Buckeye.
Ohio Buckeyes should be planted in naturalized areas or large yards. In Jefferson County the tree is found along the banks of Cross Creek in great abundance and many of the other stream riparian corridors. Best planted in areas that are not exposed to direct sunlight throughout the entire day, this in combination with good soils will prevent leaf scorch.
The Ohio Buckeye is a critical host plant to 37 species of butterflies and moths, many of which solely depend on the buckeye. Bees and hummingbirds need the tree as an early food source after long winters.
George Washington had a love for the Ohio Buckeye and like so many children often carried a buckeye in his pocket, and upon seeing a tree bearing nuts would fill every pocket and vessel he had with buckeyes. In his diary on April 13, 1785 he talks of planting buckeyes at his Mount Vernon home that he had picked up off the ground along the Cheat River near Morgantown West Virginia. ■