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Aesculus californica
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California Buckeye
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Aesculus californica

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About California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) California Buckeye or California Horse-chestnut is a species in the Sapindaceae family that is endemic to California, and the only buckeye native to the state. It is found over a large part of the state. It is a large shrub or small tree growing to 4-12 meters tall, with gray bark often coated with lichens or mosses. It typically is multi-trunked with a crown as broad as it is high. The leaves are dark green with five (rarely seven) leaflets, each leaflet 6-17 centimeters long, with a finely toothed margin and (particularly in spring) downy surfaces. The leaves are tender and prone to damage from both spring freezing or snow and summer heat and desiccation. It tends to drop its leaves readily. Caution should be exercised in using this plant in the garden because the fruits are toxic.

This plant is very drought tolerant, but looks better with some water. Native (white flowered) varieties seem to have lower water requirements.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
13.1 - 39.4 ft (4 - 12 m)

Max. Width
40 ft (12.2 m)

Upright, Rounded

Growth Rate

Summer Deciduous, Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
White, Cream

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry slopes, canyons or stream edges, most often in the Coast Ranges or Sierra foothills.

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
4' - 10807'

Annual Precip. ?
5.8" - 109.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.17" - 2.49"

Coldest Month ?
28.2° F - 56.6° F

Hottest Month ?
49.8° F - 78.5° F

Humidity ?
0.08 vpd - 29.30 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils including clay

Soil PH
4.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -5° F

Sunset Zones ?
3, 4, 5, 6, 7*, 8*, 9*, 10, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Western Serviceberry (Amelanchier pallida or utahensis), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), Spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis), Ceanothus sp., Larkspur (Delphinium sp.), Buckwheat (Erogonum sp.), Coffeeberry (Frangula californica), White Pitchersage (Lepechinia calycina), Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Oak (Quercus sp.), Redberry (Rhamnus crocea), Currant (Ribes sp.), Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), as well as numerous annual wildflowers.

Wildlife Attracted
Native insects including several butterfly species are attracted to the flowers. It is said to be toxic to non-native bees

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low, Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month, 3x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment; use fresh seeds.

Common uses
Hedges, Bank Stabilization, Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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