JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
Plant Common Name
Beautiful and fragrant white flowers, decorative nuts, and glossy leaves make the California buckeye one of the more interesting and pretty buckeyes for the garden. Native to the canyon hills and ranges of central California, this dry-season deciduous large shrub also boasts smooth silver-gray bark that arguably makes the plant look more stunning when no leaves are present.
The warmth of spring finds the new, light green foliage emerging, with hand-like (palmate) leaves with five to seven leaflets that curl to create a U-shaped fold. By late spring, the branch tips are filled with upright spike-shaped clusters of fragrant, white blossoms dotted with pink. A mature specimen will be filled with flowers, looking like a robust floral candelabra. Following pollination by bees, large pear-shaped tan fruits develop, splitting open to reveal one to two light orange-brown seeds that are not edible to humans, but foraged by small critters. As the heat and lack of rain progresses in summer (or the coolness of fall in moist climates), the leaves will drop to reveal the exquisite silver-gray smooth bark.
Plant the California buckeye in a well-drained soil, seasonally dry or moist, that is acidic or neutral in pH. If grown naturally, the leaves often drop by midsummer, but even in dry summers the foliage will hang on for a few months with irrigation. Outside of dry-summer subtropical climates, this shrub will naturally leaf out in spring and remain in leaf until early fall. This breathtaking large shrub (or small tree if lowest limbs removed) is wonderful as a specimen in a lawn or mixed border or scattered upon unirrigated hillsides. It will be most striking when leafless if the bark can be contrasted against tall background shrubs. The open, dried fruits are used in floral arrangements.
AHS Heat Zone
8 - 1
USDA Hardiness Zone
7 - 9
3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun
15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m
15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m
Late Spring, Early Summer
Clay, Loam, Sand
Drought Tolerant, Average Water
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Dried Flower/Everlasting, Feature Plant, Hedges, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break
Sharp or Has Thorns