An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of June 12, 2005

issued from California's Sierra Nevada Foothills

CALIFORNIA BUCKEYES FLOWERING

The genus embracing the buckeyes and horse chestnuts, Aesculus, produces several beautifully flowering species. (Aesculus is the classical name for an oak tree, which shows how much botany the classic name-givers knew.) In Germany a Biergarten just doesn't feel right unless the clientele can sit at tables beneath big horse-chestnut trees.

Now our California Buckeyes, AESCULUS CALIFORNICA, are flowering, putting on a show equaling the dogwoods'. You can see flowers and branches at http://ww1.clunet.edu/gf/plants/scientific/gar-3089.htm and a very pretty close-up of the small flowers at http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/images/aes_cal_fl.jpg.

The species was flowering a month ago at the canyon's bottom and I've been watching their flowering slowly move up the canyon's wall, so I've been expecting them. Of course up above trees are still in the bud stage.

California Buckeyes have a fairly small distribution, nearly entirely within California. It's the only deciduous tree in this area that sheds its leaves in late summer to deal with the heat and lack of rain. Then the tree has a singular appearance much at odds with its springtime elegance. It will be loaded with pear-shaped fruits dangling from the tips of bare branches.