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ORRIN MORRIS: Toxicity in buckeye requires handlers to be on the lookout for rashes

The Book of Proverbs places much focus on acquiring wisdom. In chapter 3:13 we read, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (KJV).I saw an interesting quote that relates to this. It said, "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life" (Sandra Carey). Proverbs 3:18 continues the theme of wisdom, "She (wisdom) is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her" (KJV).

The election is over. Now is the time to pray that our elected officials lead wisely for the benefit of the country.RED BUCKEYE

Aesculus paviaThe red buckeye was chosen because of its name. It is hunting season for deer and several of my friends spend weekends in the woods hoping to "bag a buck." True, this is the season for bucks, but spring is the season for buckeye blooms.

The common buckeye of this region is the red buckeye, sometimes called the painted buckeye. The best specimen I have seen was at Panola Mountain State Park along the outcrop trail. This plant prefers slightly acidic moist soil in sun or part shade.

Red buckeye may attain 15 to 20 feet in height. It has been known to reach up to 30 feet in undisturbed areas. Buckeye leaves are palmate with five leaflets as illustrated.

Buckeye blooms in the spring with an irregular shaped pink or red flower. The odd-shaped flower has seven short stamens nestled amid four tight petals that never spread much more than pictured. The peculiar extension of the upper petal seems to shield the pistil, but none of my references clarified the utility of this structure.

In the spring, the shrub creates a plethora of 6-inch panicles along which 10 to 20 flowers bloom.

The fruit is a smooth casing around a single dark-brown seed. The pod remains on the shrub until new growth starts the following spring.

The local buckeye is part of a genus of 13 deciduous species native to North America. The red buckeye is native to the Southeast and was not officially identified until 1711.

Another species of the genus present in this region is the bottlebush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). Its panicles are twice as long as the red buckeye and the 30 to 50 blooms are white. As the blooms mature, they tend to appear yellow.

One should be very careful handling the buckeye since there is some botanical controversy regarding the toxicity of the sap and the fruit. People with sensitive skin may break out with a rash. The fruit is even more dangerous to ingest.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. A two-volume book of the nearly 280 wildflower columns is available for sale and can be ordered by calling 770-929-3697 or 404-824-9142 or email odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.