Buckeye uses include carrying for luck

By JEFF NORTH,

I suppose there must have been some magic in my trip to Florida last week. The gloomy weather followed me, at least for a day or so, while the snow white fields of Gossypium dried and fluffed so the pickers could roll again. Though I have only been back a few days, it looks as if our first “cold” front of the fall will be pushing southward bringing our rain chances back up probably around the time you are reading this. If the rains followed me once, then maybe I can take it away again for the black hills of South Dakota is where I’m off to next. I wish I was taking weapon of stick and string with me, but alas, my laptop and cellular device will be the main tools of use this week. That’s right, another meeting unless we can con some of the bosses into taking a little time off to chase some pheasants from the brushy draws and fence rows that are so abundant in the mid-west. I will let you know when I return if they approved.

A lot of work took place while I was gone. Even food plots for the upcoming deer season looked a lot better when I returned. Tender shoots of wheat and rye are emerging and just in time for we are already in the middle of October. I know I repeat myself over and over but do you recall how I remind you that it passes all too quickly? Halloween will be here before you know it with the carving of the turkey right behind it. I stopped by Creede’s for coffee the other morning just prior to my flight to get a run down on all that he had been doing. As we visited, I noticed several fruiting structures with a bright mahogany color showing through the carpel walls. As I picked them up to inspect closer he informed me where he found them. The moist soils in the swamp once again rendered another treasure and provided the idea for this week’s article.

 

The American buckeye (Aesculus glabra), or sometimes referred to the Ohio buckeye, is one of several species of trees that inhabit warm moist soils along rivers and creeks. The range of this novel tree extends from states in the northeast through the Midwest on down through the south and southwest almost to the Mexican border. The leaves of this tree are palmately compound with five leaflets. Blooms range from yellow to green to red depending on the species. Most of the ones here in Mississippi are of the red variety. The fruit is an oblong capsule with from one to three seeds per capsule. They are reddish to brown in color with a whitish basal scar, hence the name buckeye.

The name Ohio buckeye refers to an original term of endearment for the pioneers that traveled the wilderness in the spring of 1788 and began the settlement of what is currently the state of Ohio. More specifically one of the early pioneers, Captain Daniel Davis, is accepted as the second man ashore at Point Harmar in 1788 and he declared that he cut the first tree felled west of the Ohio River, that being a buckeye. Additionally, another founder Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, made a great impression among local Native Americans and they dubbed him “Hetuck” meaning eye of the buck deer or Big Buckeye.

 

Native Americans would use the tannins from this nut for use in making leather. Opinions vary regarding the use of this fruit for consumption. Some authorities state the buckeye is highly poisonous. This includes the leaves, bark, and the actual nut itself. Supposedly the glycoside aesculin, and the saponin aescin are responsible for the toxicities, hence the name of the genus Aeculus. On the other hand, I have read where buckeyes are edible once removed from their shell and roasted. It is also recorded that local tribes would roast, peel, and mash buckeyes into a paste they would consume. Not to take a chance, I think I will just stick with the traditional “buckeye candy” made to resemble that of the buckeye by dipping a ball of peanut butter fudge in milk chocolate leaving a small patch of the peanut butter exposed. This treat is very popular during the fall so I would welcome any extras you may have.

The buckeye has also been associated with good luck for those that carry one. In fact I used to carry one and have several on my desk for display. Though I can’t attest to any good fortune coming my way for carrying them, they do make for an interesting conversation piece.

They’re really not that hard to find if you are interested in searching for them. I would start by walking the banks of creeks deep within hardwood swamps. You will notice the low hanging fruit from small shrub-like trees in our area though they are much larger in other parts of the country. Separate the shiny nut from the pale husk and voila, you will have quite the novel prize. Who knows, during your search you may even find the well-used trails from a wary buck as you invade his haunt. Beware though, for you’ll be in cottonmouth country as well and we haven’t had that frost to drive them indoors for the winter yet. Enjoy your excursions in search of this neat tree. If you happen to find them, put a couple extras in your pocket. I’m sure your friends will appreciate the gesture of sharing.

Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.  

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St. Richard’s Halloween parties were full of treats.