Veterinary Medicine Library

Ohio Buckeye or Horse Chestnut (Aesculus glabra Willd.)

Description | Distribution | Conditions of poisoning | Control | Toxic principle | Clinical signs | References

Ohio Buckeye


A tree which reaches a maximum height of 50-70 feet with a rough bark which has disagreeable order. Leaf is made up of 5 rather large, leaf-like leaflets set, like the fingers or a hand, at the end of the leafstalk.

Ohio Buckeye
      Early growth

Blossoms: large clusters of pale yellowish-green blossoms appear at the ends of the branches. Usually seen in May after the leaves appear.

Fruit: a globular, spine-roughened capsule which contains 1-3 large glossy chocolate-colored nuts each with a large whitish scar.


The buckeye grows in woods thoughout Illinois, preferring rich, moist soils. In the northern part of the state it is infrequent. Southward it is more common, but nowhere in Illinois does it occur other than as an occasional tree.

Conditions of poisoning

Sprouts, leaves, and nuts of the plant are reported to have caused illness or death in cattle, sheep, and pigs when these animals were pastured where sprouts were present and where other forage was scarce. Especially poisonous are the young sprouts and the seeds. Poisoning does not always follow when animals feed on the tree. In experimental feeding, symptoms of poisoning appeared in only a small number of the animals.


Until grass or other forage is abundant, animals should not be allowed to graze in woodland pastures where there are buckeye sprouts. Sprouts and seedlings should be grubbed out of pastures. If the trees are few, as they usually are, it may be advisable to collect the nuts in order to keep hogs from getting them. The tree has little commercial value, but since it is uncommon, it should not be unnecessarily destroyed.

Toxic principle

Glycosides, especially a glycosidic saponin called aesculin and possibly a narcotic alkaloid. Note: Glycoside is defined as a molecule containing a carbohydrate (sugar) moiety, particularly any such natural product in plants.

Clinical signs

Ohio buckeye poisoning affects the central nervous system of the animal. Prominent symptoms are an uneasy or staggering gait, weakness, severe trembling, and sometimes vomiting. Coma usually precedes death. Dilated pupils and congestion of the visible mucous membranes are commonly observed. Colic has been reported in poisoned horses.

Other References:

Ohio Buckeye entry in Wikipedia

Back to Top | Plants Toxic to Animals | Plant Lists: Scientific or Common |

Veterinary Medicine Library
UIUC Library Gateway Homepage
Comments to: Vet Med Librarian