Interesting Facts About the Buckeye Nut

The buckeye nut is a nut from a tree often referred to as the Ohio Buckeye or American Buckeye. This tree is native to the central states in America--particularly Ohio, whose nickname is The Buckeye State. This tree is also very popular among the Mississippi Valley region. The tree gained its unusual name because of the buckeye nut, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the eye of a male deer, aka "buck".

The buckeye tree is relatively small at 30 to 50 feet in height when compared to other local trees in the central states. This tree is also quite a short-lived one with a life span of about 75 years. Obviously the most memorable trait about this tree is the buckeye nut. This nut actually starts out as a round, prickly green "fruit". When the fruit ripen in September, the hull opens up and falls away, revealing the nut that it was once housing.

The nut contained within is an awkward, lumpy round shape and is mostly dark brown in color, except for the one light brown spot on the nut. The texture of the nut is surprisingly smooth and has a shiny, almost glossy appearance. If the buckeye nut is left to dry out, it becomes very hard but typically does not lose its shiny appearance.

The nut itself contains tannic acid, which is poisonous to most animals and causes nasty gastric problems for humans. Native American Indians used to roast the nut and peel away the outer shell. This was mashed up into a meal source they referred to as "hetuck". Due to the roasting process, this is most likely the only way to safely consume parts of this nut. The Indians also used to extract the tannic acid from the nut to aid in their leather making process.

Aside from these uses, the buckeye nut has also been seen as a good luck charm of sorts, and still is today! It was, and in some areas still believed, to be a treatment for the symptoms of rheumatism as long as the nut is carried on one's person. It was also believed that carrying this nut in one's pocket would grant them good luck in their sexual adventures or simply good fortune in their day-to-day life.

But the buckeye nut is not the only interesting aspect of the buckeye tree. This particular species has garnered a rather funny nickname: the fetid buckeye. Why would a tree ever gain a name that implies rottenness or a foul odor? Quite simply put...it stinks! The flowers that the buckeye bears are not the typical sweet or musky smell one might expect from a tree. The leaves, branches, and bark also release a displeasing odor whenever they are crushed or broken. It is almost as if this tree uses the odor as a form of defense!

Of all the areas that this tree is grown in, Ohio definitely takes their buckeye pride to the ultimate level. The Ohio State University sports teams were officially dubbed the Buckeyes in 1950, although they had retained this nickname for many years before it became official. Supporting fans have also been known to make necklaces, bracelets, and other items using buckeye nuts as a way to show their support of the college team.

Although the buckeye tree may not be the most decorative, or indeed even nice smelling, it still has plenty of traits that serve as the basis of traditions that many people hold dear. The buckeye tree and its famous nuts are bound to remain a traditional and comforting item among both children and adults alike for many years to come.


 

 


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