Aesculus sylvatica

Common Name: painted buckeye 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Sapindaceae
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 7 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Cream, yellow, red or yellow veined with red
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-8 (possibly Zone 6 if sited in a protected location) where it is best grown in rich, moist, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade. Avoid dry soils. Will naturalize in the landscape by underground runners.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aesculus sylvatica, commonly called painted buckeye or dwarf buckeye, is a fast-growing, thicket forming, understory deciduous shrub (6-15’) or small tree (to 30’) that is native to the southeastern U.S. where it is typically found in moist, rich woods or along streams from southern Virginia to Georgia west to Tennessee and Alabama. It is particularly prevalent in Piedmont plateau bottom lands and along the coastal plain. It may be found in the Blue Ridge Mountains in elevations to 3300’. Palmate-compound leaves are among the first to emerge in spring and among the first to drop in late summer to early fall. Each leaf has 5 short-stemmed, oblong-obovate leaflets (each leaflet to 4-6” long). Leaflets are distinguished by having yellow to orange midveins. Leaves sometimes emerge burgundy-red in early spring before turning to yellow-green above and green beneath. Bisexual and male flowers (to 1 1/4” long) appear in the same flower cluster (each cluster to 8” long) with the bisexual flowers located near the base. Flower color is variable. Flowers are often yellow, cream-colored or pink, but sometimes wholly red or yellow veined with red. Flowers bloom in showy upright clusters (to 4-6” long) in April-May. Fruit is a leathery, globular, 3-parted capsule (to 1.5” thick) containing 1 to 3 large, shiny, dark brown seeds commonly known as buckeyes. Seed ripens in late summer at which point the capsules split open to release them. Brown scaly bark.

Genus name is the Latin name for a kind of oak bearing edible acorns but applied by Linnaeus to this genus.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word parts sylv meaning woods or forests and atic meaning habitat.

Common name of painted buckeye is in reference to the purported resemblance of the upright flower clusters to a paint brush.

Problems

For plants in the genus Aesculus, potential disease problems include powdery mildew, rust and anthracnose and potential insect problems include bagworms, Japanese beetles and borers. Leaf scorch (edges brown up) may occur in droughty conditions or on sites exposed to strong wind.

Foliage decline usually occurs throughout summer resulting in loss of leaves in early September.

Garden Uses

Single to multi-trunked small tree or large shrub featuring showy spring flowers. Landscape specimen.