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Collegiate Chlorophyll: A tree column

Don’t trip over the iconic buckeye

My favorite tree at St. Olaf may be a slightly underrated one. While I was walking down the steps to Skoglund last fall, I was extremely startled when I stumbled, nearly falling— a strange object underfoot. When I picked up the rounded, marble-esque object, however, I immediately recognized it as a nut from an Ohio buckeye tree. 

The Ohio buckeye tree is iconic. The strange looking nuts that it produces serve as both the mascot for Ohio State University, and as the inspiration for a delicious peanut butter and chocolate candy. Despite the candy connection, however, Ohio buckeye nuts are surprisingly inedible, in contrast to their seductive appearance. Buckeye nuts have an almost human-made quality, as they appear as though they may have been formed and polished by a sculptor’s loving hand. 

Even though I recognized the buckeye nut right away thanks to its unmistakable appearance, I was surprised to see one in Minnesota. The buckeye tree isn’t a Minnesota native; it calls slightly warmer climates farther south in the U.S. home. Especially recently, it has been easy to empathize with the buckeye. The buckeye continues to endure strong winds, hail, and snow flurries during the unpredictable Minnesota springtime. Farther south, in its native range, wildflowers are flourishing their multicolored petals after the long months of winter, while the Olaf buckeye continues to wait patiently to spread its leaves and eventually bear its fruit. 

When walking down the stairs to Skoglund in the winter the buckeye blends in well with the other nondescript trees on the left side of the stairs. I would bet that most people walk by it without noticing it at all. I myself didn’t notice the buckeye tree for my entire first year at St. Olaf, and it was only in the fall of this school year that I happened to stumble across it— literally.

So keep a lookout for buckeyes on the left side of the Skoglund stairs when we return for the fall semester! You might trip and stumble over their nuts, or you might just fall in love with the iconic trees themselves.

Kelby Anderson is from Iowa City, Iowa.

His major is environmental studies.

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