Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Aesculus sylvatica Bartr. Painted buckeye. Synonyms Aesculus georgiana Sarg., Aesculus neglecta Lindl. Family Sapindaceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 28724. USDA PLANTS Symbol AESY. TROPICOS # 15500012.

Images • Individual leaf. • Branchlet with buds. • Close-up of buds. • Flowers. • Close-up of flower. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3. • Herbarium sheet 4.

Brief Description: A small, deciduous tree or shrub, commonly 1–5 m (3–16 ft.) tall. Bark of mature trunks is flaky. Winter buds are large, with terminal buds ranging from about 0.5–1 cm long or longer. Leaves are opposite and palmately compound, with 5 (occasionally 7), relatively large (8–20 cm long) leaflets. Leaflet margins are variously serrate. Flowers are borne on a prominent, terminal inflorescence. Flowers bear 4, long (1–3.7 cm.), cream, yellowish green or pink colored petals that form a tube-shaped corolla. Fruits consist of a 2–4 cm long, more or less spherical, tan or brown, leathery capsule. The capsule splits open revealing 1–3 (occasionally as many as 6) large, smooth, lustrous, dark brown seeds, each with a conspicuous light brown scar. Painted buckeye is one of the first trees in Piedmont forests to produce leaves and flowers in spring.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, polygamous, shrub or tree, 1–5(–15) m tall.

Stems. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) green or orange or reddish-brown, glabrous. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars shield-shaped or triangular, bundle scars (3–)6–7(–9) per leaf scar, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks flaky.

Buds. Buds axillary or terminal, reddish-brown, (4–)7–9(–13) mm long, ovoid, blunt or sharp, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, compound, once palmately compound, petiolate, opposite, 15–35 cm long, 15–35 cm wide. Leaf upper surface green or yellow-green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green, glabrous or pubescent, tomentose. Leaflets petiolulate or nearly sessile, 5(–7) per leaf, 8–20 cm long, 3–7 cm wide, lanceolate or oblong or obovate or oval, leaflet margins serrate or serrulate or doubly serrate, leaflet apices acuminate, leaflet bases attenuate or cuneate or oblique, leaflet venation pinnate. Petioles 5–15 cm long, glabrous. Stipules absent.

Flowers. Flowering March or April or May or June. Inflorescences terminal, panicles, flowers stalked. Flowers bisexual or unisexual or staminate, hypogynous. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals 5 per flower, calyx tubes 6–15 mm long, ascending, red or yellow, oblong or ovate, sepal margins serrate, sepal apices rounded, pubescent, tomentose, caducous. Corolla asymmetric, tubular, apopetalous. Petals 4 per flower, 10–37 mm long, 3–10 mm wide, ascending, cream or pink or yellow-green, clawed or obovate or spatulate, petal margins ciliate, petal apices rounded, pubescent, caducous. Androecium. Stamens 6–7 per flower, separate, filaments 18–30 mm long. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium syncarpous, 3 carpels per flower, styles 1 per pistil, placentation axile.

Fruits. Fruits capsules, 2–4 cm long, brown or tan, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges.

Special Diagnostic Characters. Capsules split open revealing 1 to 3 (rarely to 6) large, smooth, lustrous, dark brown seeds, each with a conspicuous light brown scar.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

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