The Beauty of Bottlebrush Buckeye

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My, oh my, buckeyes, oh my, the weekend beckons, but for now, let us praise Aesculus parviflora. “No better plant could be recommended as a lawn shrub”, according to W.J. Bean, as quoted in Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Bottlebrush buckeye, is my favorite shrub” from an unnamed source in Holden Arboretum’s Plant Profiles, probably Brian Parsons.



  I concur. Palmately compound leaves with 5-7 leaflets, lovely in spring, summer and fall. Multi-stemmed shrub to 10-12 feet with layered tiers of branches. Suckering habit that results in wonderful groundcover colony to complement mass plantings.


Bottlebrush buckeye leaves
New bottlebrush buckeye leaves and flower buds


fall color on bottlebrush buckeye
Bottlebrush buckeye fall color


  And the flowers are the real door prize. Creamy white 4-petaled flowers with protruding stamens with pink to red anthers. Overall effect of upright panicles is glorious in early summer. Pollinators, from butterflies to hummingbirds love bottlebrush buckeye. Fruits smaller than the average buckeye, but interesting.


bottlebrush buckeye flowers
Bottlebrush buckeye flower panicles


Cloesup of bottlebrush buckeye flower
Note the salmon-pink anthers on bottlebrush buckeye


  Best soil is moist, organic, well-drained: what else is new? Partial to full shade. Slow to get started but worth the wait. Few pest and disease problems; low susceptibility to Guignardia leaf blotch disease. Reportededly not a favorite for deer palates.


Bracts on bottlebrush buckeye
Not sure what this is in late summer: Bracts?


  In recent years moved to the Sapindaceae, the soapwort family. Native to the southeast United States and found and described by early plant explorer William Bartram in the Carolinas and Georgia in the 1770s. Many gardening awards in the U.S. and the Royal Horticultural Society (Award of Garden Merit).


Lovely bottlebrush buckeyes along a lake
Pondside bottlebrush buckeyes on the Brian Decker estate


Bottlebrush buckeye fruit
Bottlebrush buckeye fruit


Bottlebrush buckeye seed
The beauty of a bottlebrush buckeye seed


  In early October, with a group visiting the Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens, Joe Cochran exclaimed: “I spy a pink-flowering bottlebrush buckeye!” Yowzer. And in October. I asked expert in all things buckeye, Pablo Jourdan about this – and here is what he wrote:

Pink bottlebrush buckeye flower
Pink bottlebrush buckeye flowers in Maine


  “I am not entirely surprised by the late bloom. I have on occasion seen such plants blooming in October in protected areas in central Ohio… I think there is variability for bloom time and, with seed propagation the common way of producing this plant, the chances of such variability being expressed is a bit greater.


Bottlebrush buckeye flowering in fall
Bottlebrush buckeye flowering in fall in Maine with fall color


  As to the pink color: “I have not seen that color in our local bottlebrush buckeyes. I was at that garden a couple of years ago in the summer and noticed their bottlebrush buckeye plants but did not see any pink display.


  “Perhaps seed could be collected and we could try some vegetative propagation as well” Will do.



  One final note: Even the physiological leaf scorch can be beautiful on bottlebrush buckeye.


Physiological leaf scorch on bottlebrush buckeye
Even the physiological leaf scorch is beautiful on bottlebrush buckeye