Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Aesculus pavia var. pavia (Scarlet buckeye)
Cressler, Alan

Aesculus pavia var. pavia

Aesculus pavia L. var. pavia

Scarlet Buckeye, Red Buckeye, Southern Buckeye, Firecracker Plant

Hippocastanaceae (Horse-Chestnut Family)

Synonym(s): Aesculus austrina, Aesculus discolor, Aesculus discolor var. mollis, Aesculus pavia var. discolor, Aesculus splendens

USDA Symbol: aepap

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (I)

Native from North Carolina south to northern Florida, north to southern Illinois, and west to the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas, Aesculus pavia var. pavia is an attractive spring-flowering shrub or small tree, blooming in some years as early as February, with showy red flowers. Frequent on limestone ledges above streams and also found on a variety of well-drained, usually acidic woodland soils in the Southeast. Plants on the central Edwards Plateau may show hybridization with the yellow-flowered var. flavescens (Sarg.) Correll, the common form in the western part of the Edwards Plateau. Large leaves with leaflets radiating from the tip of a long petiole. Bark on young branches smooth, gray to brown, roughened on older ones. Leaf blade palmately divided into 5 leaflets; petiole up to 6 inches long and leaflets of equal length, tapering more gradually to the base than to the elongate tip, and with serrate margins. Flowers tubular, 1 to 1.5 inches long, on an upright axis as much as 8 inches tall. Fruit a rounded capsule 2 inches in diameter, brown, with a slightly roughened surface, persisting after the leaves have fallen; seeds 1 to 3, shiny.

This is the red-flowered variety of species Aesculus pavia, found throughout the species range except the westernmost edge of the Edwards Plateau in central Texas, where variety flavescens takes its place. It ranges in height from 10 to 40 feet, with heights diminishing the farther west you go from the Mississippi Valley. Long popular for its brilliant, hummingbird-attracting spring flowers and rich green foliage, it is found in nature most often as a plant of woodland edges, where it can get morning sun and afternoon shade. For a planned landscape, it should be placed where it won't be prominent after July, as it loses its leaves by the end of summer.


From the Image Gallery

23 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Palmate
Leaf Shape: Elliptic
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous , Tomentose
Leaf Margin: Crenate , Serrate
Leaf Apex: Acuminate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Thyrse
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: 10-40 ft tall; in central Texas, at the western edge of its range, it is commonly no more than 5-15 ft.
Leaf: Green to Blue-green, turning yellow before leaf drop.
Flower: Flowers in 6 inch thyrses (often called panicles) with individual flowers 1 to 1.5 inches long. Topmost petals the longest. Stamens rarely exceed length of the longest petals.
Fruit: Brown 1-2 inches

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Color can be red to yellowish red even without hybridization.


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , KY , LA , MO , MS , NC , OK , SC , TN , TX
Native Distribution: FL to e. TX, n. to NC, s. IL, & s.e. MO. The western boundary for A. pavia var. pavia in Texas is a line roughly between McLennan and Bexar counties and north of southern Blanco county.
Native Habitat: Thickets, hillsides, slopes, shaded woods, and river banks in dappled shade.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Deep, moist, well-drained, usually acidic soils, though also found in calcareous areas. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based
Conditions Comments: Red buckeye has no serious pests, although anthracnose and leaf blotch habitually cause leaves to fall off by the end of the summer. Red buckeye will suffer leaf scorch in sunny, southwest exposures.


Use Ornamental: Valued for its red spring flowers
Use Wildlife: Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Nuts eaten by squirrels.
Use Other: Seeds and young shoots crushed and set in fish ponds to stun fish for easy capture by indigenous people. Saponins in roots used as soap substitute and wood used to obtain a black dye.
Warning: Seeds and young shoots poisonous if ingested.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Deer Resistant: Moderate


Propagation Material: Root Cuttings , Seeds
Description: Plant untreated seeds immediately in a well-drained medium. Dormant root cuttings of 3-4 inches sometimes successful.
Seed Collection: As soon as the leathery capsule turns brown and begins to peel back from the firm, golden-brown seeds. Do not allow the seeds to dry out.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Soak-water during summer drought to prevent leaf loss.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 481 - How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition (2001) Nokes, J.
Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Aesculus pavia var. pavia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Aesculus pavia var. pavia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Aesculus pavia var. pavia


Record Modified: 2020-03-06
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

Go back