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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 13, 2013

From: Bridgewater, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Can animals eat bottlebrush buckeye without being poisoned?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can deer, bear and wild turkey and squirrels eat the nuts and leaves from the bottlebrush buckeye shrub without being posioned by it.

ANSWER:

From our Native Plant Database page on Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush buckeye):

"Warning: Seeds and foliage of Aesculus species are poisonous to humans if eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil."

This quotation only cites humans so we looked around to see what else we could find.

From Floridata:  

WARNING
"The leaves and especially the seeds of bottlebrush buckeye are highly poisonous and ingestion could be fatal for people or livestock."

We are not sure that squirrels,  bears and turkeys count as livestock, but deer could.

From Dave's Garden: "Flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Rarely eaten by deer. Squirrels and chipmunks love the protein-rich nuts that ripen in the fall. "

From the same Forum: "Deer will eat them during winter so I have them in wire mesh that arent' seen during summer due to foliage. Deer prune them back naturally during winter. An acceptable arrangement."
From Alaska Fish and Wildlife News: How Deer Eat Poisonous Plants.
Conclusion: If you have Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush buckeye) and don't have dead bears, squirrels, turkeys and deer lying around, it must be working okay.
 

From the Image Gallery


Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

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