The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K]. The flowers of this plant are toxic to bees
Seed - cooked
. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a gruel
. The seed contains about 23% protein and has an agreeable taste
. The seed is large, and can be up to 5cm in diameter
. It is often produced abundantly in the warmer areas of Britain and is easily harvested[K]. This was the most commonly used Aesculus species in N. America
. It does, however, contain poisonous saponins (see the notes above on toxicity) and so needs careful preparation before being eaten. The seed needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days
. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment[K].
The seed is rich in saponins, these are used as a soap substitute
. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts[K].
Wood - soft, light, very close grained
. Of no value as a lumber
. The wood was used as friction sticks for making fire by the North American Indians
The seed contains saponins and can be used as an expectorant
The crushed fruit is applied as a salve on haemorrhoids.
A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of toothache and loose teeth
Canopy or Secondary canopy
Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe
. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather
. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable
. It is best to sow the seed with its 'scar' downwards
. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Aesculus californica. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy
. Requires a position in full sun
. Prefers dry sunny locations
Although fairly hardy throughout Britain, it grows best in areas where winter temperatures do not fall below -10°c.
A moderately fast-growing and long-lived tree in the wild, in Britain it grows best in eastern and south-eastern England. Plants thrives at Kew.
Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
There are no interactions listed for Aesculus californica. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.
Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Aesculus californica.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
Material uses & Functions
Native Climate Zones
Adapted Climate Zones
Native Geographical Range
Root Zone Tendancy
? 1.01.11.21.31.4 Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Naturegraph Co. ISBN 0-911010-54-8 (1962-00-00)
? 2.02.1 Sholto-Douglas. J. Alternative Foods. ()
? 3.03.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
? 4.04.1 Howes. F. N. Nuts. Faber (1948-00-00)
? 5.05.1 Balls. E. K. Early Uses of Californian Plants. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-00072-2 (1975-00-00)
? 6.06.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
? 7.07.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
? 8.08.18.28.3 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
? 9.09.19.29.3 Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America. Dover Publications Inc. New York. ISBN 0-486-20278-X (1965-00-00)
? 10.010.1 Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
? 11.011.111.2 Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. ISBN 0442238622 (1980-00-00)
? 12.012.112.212.312.4 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
? 13.013.113.213.313.4 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
? 14.014.1 McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books ISBN 0-901361-21-6 (1985-00-00)
? 15.015.1 ? The Plantsman. Vol. 4. 1982 - 1983. Royal Horticultural Society (1982-00-00)
? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
? 17.017.117.2 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
? ? The Plantsman. Vol. 6. 1984 - 1985. Royal Horticultural Society (1984-00-00)
? Munz. A California Flora. University of California Press (1959-00-00)
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