Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Buckeyes Are Ripening, But They Aren’t Ready Yet July 20, 2009

Filed under: Plants,Seasons,Spring,Summer,Trees — saltthesandbox @ 4:13 pm
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For more than 10 years our family has been collecting Buckeyes from a tree near our home. Why? Well, Buckeyes are just great things to have, and to hold, and to rub with your thumb and carry around in your pocket! So, I got really excited when I found the first of the new crop laying on the street:

The Buckeye nuts are inside a leathery hunk. Squirrels had started chewing on them, but given up.

The Buckeye nuts are inside a leathery husk. Squirrels had started chewing through the husk, but given up. The husks are an inch or two in diameter.

I took them home and cut into the husk, hoping I could peel it off to find the shiny brown nut inside. No such luck! The husk was really thick, and when I cut all the way through, I could see the nuts were nowhere close to ripe:

I cut one in half. The white thing inside would have become a nut if the squirrels and I had waited.

I cut a Buckeye in half. The white thing inside would have become a nut if the squirrels and I had waited.

So, I guess I should have waited, and the squirrels must have reached the same conclusion once they tasted what was inside the husk. But it doesn’t seem fair, because I have been waiting on this tree for more than two months! I waited while the Buckeye flowers bloomed in mid May:

The Buckeye flowers looked like this way back on May 19, 2009.

The Buckeye flowers looked like this way back on May 19, 2009.

When you looked closely, they were very beautiful! But they weren't much fun to play with.

When you look closely, Buckeye flowers are very beautiful, but they aren't much fun to play with.

I waited as the nuts began to grow later in May:

The Buckeye nuts looked like this after the flowers had faded away, on May 27, 2009.

The Buckeye nuts looked like this after the flowers had faded away, on May 27, 2009.

I waited as the nuts grew all through June:

Developing Buckeye nuts, Oak Park, Illinois, June 18, 2009

By June 18, only a few Buckeye nuts survived on this old flower stalk.

And I waited through the first weeks of July:

The growing Buckeyes looked like this on July 2, 2009.

The growing Buckeyes looked like this on July 2, 2009.

And now, as the Buckeyes finally are approaching ripeness, we are preparing to leave on vacation! So, just to remind me of what I was missing, I cracked open an old Buckeye that had sat on a shelf since last summer:

This Buckeye sat, unopened, since last summer, until I cracked it open with a pair of plyers.

This Buckeye sat, unopened, since last summer, until I cracked it open with a pair of pliers. Don't you want to pick up a Buckeye and rub it with your fingers (or throw it at your brother)?

I guess the squirrels will have this year’s Buckeye crop all to themselves. Unless, of course, you want to collect a few Buckeyes of your own. (This tree is in the northeast corner of Rehm Park in south Oak Park — but leave a few for the squirrels!)

Update added October 30, 2009: Buckeyes trees are similar to Horse Chestnut trees. Here’s a blog post from Scotland about collecting conkers, which look like buckeyes but come from Horse Chestnut trees: http://childrenandnature.ning.com/profiles/blogs/conkers-1

—–

Here are links to web pages with more information about this species of Buckeye:

  • Ohio Division of Forestry: Information about the Yellow Buckeye, which I think is the species in my photos, (because the husk is pretty smooth, not spiky).
  • Wikipedia: Encyclopedia-style entry about the Yellow Buckeye.

 

 

3 Responses to “Buckeyes Are Ripening, But They Aren’t Ready Yet”

  1. We love how you and your family really get into nature — playing instead of just observing. Those buckeyes do look like just the things to have some good throwing-battles with! Ouch!

  2. dee Says:

    I live in Cleveland where could I find buckeye trees close, where I could pick as many as I want?

    • Good question, Dee! Most of the buckeye trees I know of in Chicago are in parks, where I can’t legally collect them. I know of a few buckeyes on tree lawns (strips of land between the street and sidewalk), and those belong to the village but are not parks. However, I still ask the owner of the adjacent house before I collect them.
      Eric


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