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Aesculus x carnea (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Aesculus x carnea (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Zone
Zones 3-10, 14-24
Full Sun
Full
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal
Toxicity
Seeds are slightly toxic if ingested

Aesculus californica

California Buckeye
Sapindaceae
Deciduous, Trees

AESCULUS

These big, bold plants have an almost tropical look. The leaves are divided fanwise into large, toothed leaflets. Showy spring flowers, borne at ends of branches in long, dense clusters, attract hummingbirds. In autumn, leathery fruit capsules enclose glossy seeds. Prune established horsechestnuts only to eliminate dead or damaged wood and any awkward-looking branches.

Aesculus californica (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)
Aesculus californica (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)

Click to Enlarge

Aesculus californica

Native to dry slopes and canyons below 4,000-ft. elevation in coast ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills. This graceful plant grows 10–20 ft. or taller and spreads 30 ft. or wider, often with multiple trunks. The new foliage is pale apple green; mature leaves have five to seven rich green leaflets. California Buckeye is striking in spring, when fragrant, cream-colored flower plumes make it look like a giant candelabra. (Unfortunately, the pollen and nectar of this species are poisonous to honeybees.) Big pear-shaped fruits split to reveal shiny brown seeds favored for dried flower arrangements. Seeds sprout freely; seedlings make unusual bonsai subjects.

In the wild, this plant drops its leaves by July, but if given moderate water, it will hold them until fall. After leaf drop,the silvery trunk, branches, and branchlets create an interesting silhouette.

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