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Aesculus octandra – Yellow Buckeye

Yellow buckeye is native to a relatively narrow range of the Appalachian mountains. I love buckeyes without reserve. Their form echoes the American landscape on small scale, with a lazy grace that is perfect in the garden or natural landscape. Buckeyes shed their leaves early in fall, a reminder that winter will soon be on the way.

Aesculus octandra
Early blooms of the yellow buckeye, Aesculus octandra.


The yellow buckeye, Aesculus octandra, is the largest buckeye, a tree capable of topping 100 feet.

If you choose to grow Aesculus octandra, be conscious of the fact that it is a large tree. The largest specimen recorded was 142 feet in Kentucky (source: The American Forestry Association National Register of Big Trees). We see a buckeye in a five-gallon pot and we might think ‘here is another great addition to the garden’, imagining the scale of bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) or red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). Careful with that thought, as yellow buckeye gets huge.

yellow buckeye
Yellow buckeye. Note the huge colony of bottlebrush buckeye in the background.

The photograph above was taken at Goodness Grows, one of the great American nurseries. As mentioned in the caption, the background of the image is the largest stand of bottlebrush buckeye I have ever seen.

Yellow buckeye is a mountain tree but is adaptable so long as you do not plant it in a dry site.

Aesculus octandra occurs naturally in areas with high rainfall totals.

The growth rate is moderate, and spread is to 40′-60′. Yellow buckeye has no problems with diseases that are lethal, although leaf blotch may cause defoliation. There are no insect pests considered deadly to yellow buckeye. Walnut scale and buckeye lacebug are the primary threats. I would not be overly concerned as yellow buckeye has a reputation for good disease and insect resistance.

Fall color, similar to many of the buckeyes, is a yellow-orange. Also typical of buckeyes, Aesculus octandra has large leaves, 8″-10″ arranged in five leaflets.

Finally, a song of the Appalachians and Buckeye Creek and the minor key.

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