In the fall, the seeds of countless plants are more abundant than at any other time of the year. Some argue that none is more pleasing to the eye than the buckeye. While it is largely shunned by wildlife, it is coveted my many Georgians.
I have a red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) growing in my yard. Each year this small deciduous tree produces a crop of large reddish brown seeds called buckeyes. Each plum-sized buckeye appears to be hand-polished. The seeds get their name from the round grayish scar (hilum) found on one side of each seed. To many, this area (where the seed connects to the husk that covers the nut while it is developing) resembles the pupil of a deer’s eye.
When you gaze at a buckeye, it looks like it should be a great wildlife food. In truth, the vast majority of wildlife species don’t eat buckeyes. In fact, squirrels are the only native species known to dine on buckeyes on a regular basis. White-tailed deer, for example rarely do more than nibble on them. However, feral hogs are said to eat them.
Why isn’t it a wildlife favorite? The answer is the buckeye contains a chemical known as glycoside; a derivative of glycoside is known to be poisonous. For some reason, this poison does not affect gray squirrels. However, it is poisonous to livestock and humans. Deer will usually avoid buckeyes but will occasionally nibble on them.
On the other hand, many people covet buckeyes.
According to a number of folktales, buckeyes can do amazing things such as bring good luck and even cure diseases.
Consequently, some say that carrying a buckeye will a person good luck only if it is carried in the right pants pocket.
According to folklore, rubbing a buckeye will cure asthma, headaches, arthritis and rheumatism. However, if you want a buckeye to cure your rheumatism, you must carry it in your left pocket of your pants.
If you have a buckeye tree that produces a bounty of buckeyes, don’t sell them as good luck charms. If you do, technically speaking, you might be charged with false advertising. This is because supposedly, if you sell a one of these magical seeds, it loses its power to provide the buyer with good luck.