Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Buckeyes Are Blooming!

One of my favorite Aesculus californica (California Buckeye) trees in a neighborhood nearby has put on her Springtime dress.  The perfect tree for an urban garden, she encompasses all of the basic needs:  seasonal changes (including a flower show in Spring and bare silver branches at the close of Summer), shade to put your hammock under, smallish stature to conserve on space, and tolerance of sun and shade alike. 

While the little stick in my own garden valiantly grows and develops, I'll continue to linger at the base of this tree on my walks and enjoy its ethereal beauty.


  1. What do you know about the assertion that California buckeyes are poisonous to honeybees? I'd heard this stated as both fact and myth.

  2. I'm so glad you asked! They are indeed poisonous to honeybees, but the native bees love them. The beekeeper that has his hives in my yard assured me that having buckeyes near hives are not a problem (he's got tons around his hives over the tunnel). I think they might realize the toxicity and ignore it, or the loss is insignificant. If you find anything more about it, please share!

  3. So, toxic, but potentially not appealing, huh?

    I really want to read the literature on this subject. It fascinates me.

  4. I am blessed with a fabulous view of open hills from my back garden. Right now the buckeye are in full blossom and beautiful and nearly makes up for missing the apple blossom back home - it will be another "must have" for my front yard, along with the anemone you talked about in your post a few days ago! Slowly, Christine you are planning out my native garden without realizing it! I'll be planting in October as I'm still battling with Ivy and privets - but thanks to your blog I get fresh injections of excitment about it even though at the moment it is all a slog!

    Lisa and Robb - I was at a gardening talk last Saturday where they said that the native bees are more efficient pollinators than the Eurpoean honey bees - the later being only 3% effective! I'd hate for them to be poisoned though, and I hope they are only attracted to those flowers that are good for them!

  5. I'd heard about this toxicity before. I do wonder realistically how much of an issue it is. According to the US Forest Service:

    "Apian considerations: Honeybees are the chief pollinators of California buckeye, but the pollen and nectar are toxic to them. Losses of adult honeybees and their larvae due to poisoning can be severe. Human beings have been poisoned by eating honey made from California buckeye."

    My understanding had been that honey bees were only at risk if the majority of their diet was sourced from this tree, but now I'm going to have to go and look that up again...

  6. Hi Clare, hmmm, interesting. I think you're right about having other sources of nectar/pollen will prevent any problems. Here's a post I did earlier in the year exploring the issue that includes a couple of links:


  7. Interesting discussions on an interesting tree. Just a little more surfing turned up at the Las Pilitas site: "The pear-like fruits are poisonous, and they were used as fish poison by the Pomo, Yana, Yokut and Luiseno peoples (Kroeber, 1925)." In the end I'd settle on the all things in moderation approach to life. Even if this tree's toxic to some lifeforms, small numbers of it might not be horrific in the big picture. Whatever the case, it's a gorgeous tree in bloom, and it must be nice for you to have a mature example to visit to give you hope for a young plant that has no aspirations other than being a twig.

  8. I forgot to mention that Steven the beekeeper also told me that bees have a range of 3 miles (!) so unless you're amidst a buckeye orchard, the bees should be able to find yummy alternatives.
    Byddi- so glad we seem to have the same taste! October is really the ideal time to plant anyway, so good luck on the ivy/privet battle in the meantime.
    I like your philosophy, James. All things in moderation- except time spent in the garden!