Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Aesculus californica

California buckeye

Hippocastanaceae (Horse-Chestnut Family)

Aesculus californica (California buckeye)
Vick, Albert F. W.
California buckeye is a broad, round, symetrically branching shrub, 10-20 ft. tall, with silvery-gray bark and lustrous, dark-green, palmately compound foliage with 4-7 leaflets. The shrubís primarily white flowers are fragrant and occur in 4-8 in. panicles. Their orange stamens extend beyond the petals, providing a feathery texture. The pendent, pear-shaped seed capsule is 2-3 in. long. The fall leaves of this deciduous shrub are colorful. Thicket-forming shrub.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Palmate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Dentate
Inflorescence: Panicle
Size Notes: Height 15-40 feet, spread 30-60 feet.
Leaf: Red
Flower: Flower about 1/2 inch across.
Fruit: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long.
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Pinkish-white blooms.


Native Distribution: Through CA Coast Ranges & Sierra Nevada to Los Angeles & Kern Cos.
Native Habitat: Dry canyons, gullies & wooded slopes

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Poor, dry soils.
Conditions Comments: California buckeye drops its leaves in July or August, but if given ample moisture it will hold them into fall. The shrub does not respond well to humidity and high night temperatures.


Use Ornamental: The only native buckeye in the West, this species is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
Use Wildlife: Chipmunks and squirrels consume the seeds, but bees are poisoned by the nectar and pollen.
Use Food: California Indians made flour from the poisonous seeds after leaching out the toxic element with boiling water.
Use Other: Ground, untreated seeds were thrown into pools of water to stupefy fish, which then rose to the surface and were easily caught. Wood used by indigenous Californians to make fire drills and hearths.
Warning: Seeds are poisonous to humans if eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís 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 plantís 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.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Aesculus californica is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Sequoia sphinx
(Sphinx sequoiae)

Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2008-10-18