Choosing the buckeye (Aesculus flava) as our plant of the day is not any sort of expression of college football allegiance, but is meant to highlight one of the currently falling (and more attractive) fruits of late summer and early autumn. The local buckeye is in fact a different species from its Ohio cousin.
Many buckeyes around the area did not fare too well up to this point, dropping their leaves early in the summer as a response to drought-like conditions. The distinct palmately compound leaves tend to scorch and depreciate as a response to dry conditions, so it was a welcome sight to be hiking through Lost Cove and to see not only a tree with intact foliage, but one producing healthy and large fruits. On the Domain buckeyes are fairly common throughout the coves, and are found on top of the plateau almost exclusively as a result of planting.
Though I decided it best to leave these fruits where I found them, the benefits of picking up a buckeye are numerous. While they are not edible like walnuts or hickory nuts, carrying a buckeye has been supposed to bring good luck, ward off rheumatism, promote male potency, or–my personal favorite–there is an old Tennessee folk belief that if you tie a buckeye around the neck of a baby you will prevent its becoming a drunkard (I found this bit of wisdom in this articleabout Tennessee folk beliefs about children)!