Fall Brings Thoughts of the Buckeye Tree and Its Nuts

Image of multiple buckeye nuts

Calvin and Clara walked past the old buckeye tree hundreds of times on their way to and from school and enjoyed seeing and picking up the shiny brown nuts that fell each fall.  The nuts looked very much like the eye of a male deer and had a flat area for a person’s thumb to fit.

They counted to see how many they had gathered and it was easy to punch a hole through them to make bracelets and necklaces.  Also, they could be arranged in designs and glued to pieces of cardboard and wood.  The custom of carrying a buckeye nut in a pocket for good luck had been passed on to them.

Among the things the youngsters did not know were the tree had a special role.  It should never be cut because early land deeds called for it being the boundary point where four properties come together.

Buckeye trees can be found over a broad region in the Appalachians and are natives to the Ohio area.  The buckeye became Ohio’s official state tree and the Buckeyes are Ohio State University’s sports teams.

All parts of buckeye trees, from leaves to bark and nuts, have toxic qualities.

Native Americans used buckeyes for medicinal purposes.  They crushed and kneaded the nuts to make a salve for rashes, cuts, rheumatism, and arthritis pain.

Squirrels feast on buckeye nuts and will eat half of one, leave it, and return later to finish the other half.

With an abundant supply, it is easy to think that buckeye nuts would always be free, but that was not true in the summer of 2014, when a gaming commission advertised the lucky qualities of buckeyes.  A casino purchased 5,000 nuts to give to gamblers, but had to purchase 40,000 more for additional customers.  What was done actually caused a shortage in that location.  One gentleman felt good about being given a buckeye and winning thousands of dollars.

Calvin and Clara graduated from high school many decades ago and moved away, but they continued to remember the buckeye tree and its buckeyes.  With the yearly rhythm of nature, the tree has large flower clusters with bright yellow petals in the spring.  Its leaves begin turning orange, yellow, and red during summer.  A green outer shell or hull appears and splits open to show the buckeye inside when it drops to the ground in fall.

As long as it lives, the old buckeye tree will provide many treasured memories and a point of reference for four landowner deeds.

James Byrd, AMY Regional Library Special Collections Librarian & local historian

(submitted Oct 22, 2021)

Image: An Abundance of Buckeye Nuts