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Native Plant Spotlight: Yellow Buckeye

On a recent adventure to Staunton River State Park I discovered a new-to-me plant that was one of the first trees to put out leaves this season. Most of the forest was still bare or working on flowers, but this plant had its leave out first.

As near as I can tell, this is a Yellow Buckeye sapling. There were several small saplings scattered along the river trail. This tree does like to grow in a warm, moderate riparian habitat. It is not easily bothered by disease or bugs. It puts out 5 leaves in a palmate arrangement and is one of the first to do so in the spring. In the fall it has nuts, but nothing really eats the nuts because they, along with the leaves and roots are full of a substance called saponin.

Interestingly, saponin can be used in soapmaking, and the early settlers used it regularly. I read that the Native Americans would use it as a food, but only after leaching and roasting it.

Exploring the forest, during each season, always has something to unveil to me. I enjoy exploring this beautiful area and learning more about the natural resources it has for many long years offered to it's explorers.


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