Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: California Buckeye
Aesculus californica

Family: Sapindaceae (sap-in-DAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Aesculus (ES-kew-lus) (Info)
Species: californica (kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Calothyrsus californica
Synonym:Hippocastanum californicum

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

3 members have or want this plant for trade.


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Flowers are fragrant

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 29 photos.
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8 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive cabngirl On Dec 17, 2012, cabngirl from Sonoma, CA wrote:

I am surprised to see the hardiness listed here as 7a to 8b as it is a one of my most favorite and common natives all around Sonoma/Marin Counties where I live, IE zone 9a/b (which extends to vast areas of CA). One thing also I did not see mentioned is the wonderful, delicate, uplifting fragrance of the blooms, (something akin to honeysuckle). At times the fragrance will drift and linger throughout an area. Gives me a pleasantly surprising little rush I relish every spring. I've noted blooms can really vary from niche to niche, some blooming much earlier or later. I've lived among some amazing gnarly specimens, some of the most venerable out on fairly steep open grassy hillsides, branches crossing and melding together, looking like something from Middle Earth. Some specimens had large holes in the huge gnarled, knobby bases. Absolutely love these trees! They grow near seasonal creeks but I believe they are happy with a little more exposure, ie in semi-open oak forests, dotted among oaks and bays. I dug up one several-year-old seedling nearly 20 years ago that was clinging to a steep slope where horses entered a corral (eventually it would have succumbed to trampling) and I was amazed it survived- to this day- it is still in a 5 gallon pot, (my idea was to keep is as a quasi-bonsai). This one has yet to bloom. Several springs I've watched a squirrel chomp the newly emerging twigs (much to my annoyance)- don't know if it was eating them, using them for nesting or what. Tough trees. More/consistent water has forestalled the leaf drop into late summer.

Positive ogon On Aug 20, 2011, ogon from Paradise, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

One of my absolute favorite native shrubs! California Buckeyes have year round interest. They are among the first plants to leaf out in late winter or early spring, and spring floral displays are truely stunning. They are one of the first plants to go dormant in summer, usually some time in July, but the grey branches continue to be attractive, and the forming seeds are especially attractive in winter, when they look like natural Christmas tree decorations.

These plants are generally found in the understory of wooded areas and often along the banks of creeks. This should be kept in mind when trying to grow them in your own yard. They like acidic soil rich in organic matter (think of all of the leaves on a forest floor), and grow most rapidly when planted in partial shade rather than full sun. In ideal conditions, these plants are moderate growers and not slow growing at all. They are survivors though, so in less than ideal conditions, they will persist, but grow much more slowly.

Positive Mark_Dengler On Mar 20, 2010, Mark_Dengler from Richmond, CA wrote:

I live on the East side of San Francisco Bay opposite the Golden Gate and about half a mile from the shore. I have a buckeye that I planted as a seedling circa 20 years ago. The known ancestor of the seedling was a tree on the ranch near San Jose where my wife's father (now in his 101st year) grew up. A seedling from that tree grew into a tree in Castro Valley where my wife grew up, which in turn was the parent of my seedling.

While relatively slow growing for the first 10 years or so, my buckeye now pushes out 3 and 4 foot lateral canes in a month or two in spring and is a bit of a problem to keep under control. The tree is perhaps 20' tall and would be wider if I didn't keep trimming it back around the edges. It is handsome in its deciduous phase with smooth, almost white bark, impressive in bloom, and generally attractive in leaf. It drops a lot of big shiny seeds in the fall which the squirrels love to pick over, and occasionally plant in my flower pots. Other than trimming, it needs no maintenance and has been entirely pest free.

Positive KarlF On Dec 29, 2009, KarlF from Jackson, NJ wrote:

just came back from ca. with 3 buckeyes. they germinated in a plastic bag in a drawer. any thoughts on keeping them in zone 6/7 nj. zip code 08527

Positive Turken On Apr 8, 2007, Turken from Lower Lake, CA wrote:

Love this tree. Grows in the wild here. I have a lot of small trees around garden that I planted. Very drought tolerant tree.

Positive payneinARK On Sep 25, 2005, payneinARK from Greenwood, AR wrote:

Plants I grew from seed gathered in American River canyon, CA growing well and dropping leaves in july, just like in natural CA habitat only mine are growing in Arkansas' humidity and summer rain. Have not had problems with summer water as long as drainage is good. In nature these trees usually grow on canyon slopes or just above flood level of streams.

Positive pete2255 On Jan 3, 2005, pete2255 from South East
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

Fast growing likes heavy soil keep it foliage till november in England. Very long flower spikes . Tends to spread outwards as aposed to upwards. Bloody marvellous!!!!!

Neutral csm73 On Nov 15, 2004, csm73 from Santa Rosa, CA wrote:

will grow in my very heavy soil. Slowly as he says. Subject to deer predation. Squirrels will selectively eat parts of the seeds. They bury others which can sprout like acorns.

Positive BethallynB On Nov 14, 2003, BethallynB from Walnut Creek, CA wrote:

This tree is extrodinarily well adapted to Mediterranean climates. Must have good drainage, will tolerate heavy soils, will not tolerate summer water. Leafs out in late winter with bright green, palmate leaves that are followed by long clusters of creamy/white blossoms. The leaves fall in mid-summer as a drought adaptation. The trunk and branches add a structural element to the summer-fall garden. Easily grown be seed. Seeds were considered a food source by the indiginous people of this area once thoroughly leached.

Neutral Ulrich On Nov 13, 2003, Ulrich from Manhattan Beach, CA (Zone 11) wrote:

This is only for young people to plant. It grows extremely slow.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Huntington, Arkansas
Chico, California
Danville, California
El Sobrante, California
Fremont, California
Grass Valley, California
Knights Landing, California
Lompoc, California
Lower Lake, California
Manhattan Beach, California
Paradise, California
Richmond, California
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
San Leandro, California
Santa Rosa, California
Sonoma, California
Walnut Creek, California

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