Painted Buckeye

By William T. Hathaway

Painted Buckeye

The Painted Buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica) is also known as the Dwarf Buckeye.

Spreading by extensive underground stems, it normally forms a shrubby colony. Occasionally, in an ideal habitat, this species may become a small tree, reaching 30 feet in height. In the lower south-eastern edge of Pittsylvania County alluvial woods and swamp forests along the Dan River are ideal locations for its growth.

Several years ago Mrs. Lindsey Moore graciously allowed me access to the lowlands where this specimen was photographed, along the river below the Moores' upland fields and forested farm. A map shows this narrow lowland area to be about one mile north of, and downstream from, the Milton Bridge at VA 62.

Environmental requirements dictate that this tree is rare within our county. South central Virginia represents the northern edge of the natural distribution of this species, which is prevalent in central North Carolina. Painted Buckeye flowers are cream to greenish-yellow, tinged with pink (painted) at the margins of the petals. The tender early leaves and later-developed dark brown seeds are dangerous to livestock.