The luck of the Irish may have something to do with their four leaf clovers, but for Trees Forever Program Manager Leslie Berckes, her luck comes from a buckeye seed.
“My dad gave me an Ohio buckeye seed when I was in High School and told me to keep it in my pocket for luck,” Berckes explains. “I carried it in my winter coat pocket during college when I was walking across campus and would spin it around in my hand. Now I have it on my desk which seems especially appropriate for working at Trees Forever!”
Despite carrying the shiny, brown nut for years, Berckes always thought her dad was making it up that the buckeye was lucky.
“Turns out, it really is considered lucky! I didn’t realize it until my Trees Forever colleagues confirmed that it was actually true,” Berckes laughs.
Now as a certified arborist, Berckes started researching and discovered that the buckeye seed’s association with luck is all because of a common mistake.
“One sources says that immigrants coming over from Europe believed the horse chestnut was lucky, and that was transferred over to the buckeye since they look alike. They really are hard to tell apart. Some of our most experienced arborists even can be stumped by the challenge! ” Berckes said.
The buckeye tree can grow 100-feet-tall. Each spring, the tree blossoms, blanketing the foliage with an off-white bouquets. Like the horse chestnut, its leaves fan out with five to seven leaves radiating out from a single stem. Those so-called lucky seeds are contained in spikey, leather-like husks. The dark brown seeds resemble deer’s eyes, but unlike chestnuts, buckeye seeds contain toxins poisonous to humans. Native Americans would boil the nuts and leach them to remove the toxins, but in general, this nut has been more famous for its charm.
“The seeds mere presence was believed to cure all sorts of ailments.”
While the seed has never cured her of any ailments—at least none that she knows of, she still keeps her lucky charm handy.
If you’re looking for a lucky charm, Berckes may soon be able to provide you with one.
“I have a buckeye that popped up on the edge of my property. I think a squirrel planted it, and now I’m looking for a place to replant it.” Berckes said. “Buckeye trees are not common in my neighborhood so maybe this lucky buckeye I carry with me had something to do with this one showing up!”