Red Buckeye

Last week I did a talk on pollinator-friendly landscaping at the annual conference of the Ecological Landscaping Association. It was a great place to spend a Friday, because the conference and marketplace was something of a meeting of the minds of every 21st century plant geek on the right coast. Case in point: After I finished my talk, a woman approached me and told me that she grows Red Buckeye, (which I had mentioned in my talk as a good tree for pollinators), and that when it blooms, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are ALL OVER the flowers. She lives in central New Hampshire, which is a similar climate to our cold Worcester Hills river valley.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is an understory tree native to the woods from North Carolina southwards, so it’s not a tree you’d see in the wild here in Massachusetts. I’ve seen it growing at Garden in the Woods (the botanic garden of New England Wild Flower Society in Framingham, MA) where it blooms in early June:

Red-Buckeye

When you look at the flowers (below) you can immediately see why this tree is so popular with hummingbirds. The red tubular flowers are perfectly adapted for them to drink nectar from the base of the flower, using their extra-long tongues (pollinating the flowers in the process).

Red-Buckeye-closeupWhen choosing native plants for my own garden, I tend to look for plants that are native to the ecosystems of central Massachusetts. Plants that originate locally are best for a wildlife garden because they are adapted to meet the needs of the local wildlife who co-evolved alongside them.

But, when somebody tells me about a non-native Hummingbird magnet plant that is not invasive here, I simply MUST grow it!  The presence of feisty Hummingbirds in our garden is something that inspired my interest in gardening for habitat, so I’ll plant anything that brings ’em in. The Red Buckeye shown above is growing in the moist meadow-edge garden at Garden in the Woods….just the habitat that we have in abundance here!

Now, where can I find a Red Buckeye, either plants or seeds? It’s now on my Plant List for 2009 ….

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