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I ask this knowing that it's possibly borderline off-topic, but I don't see a Botany SE site where I could ask, so...

A few days ago I stumbled (literally) upon an odd little fruit that had fallen onto the sidewalk. It fascinated me because it had three large lobes and a hard, mottled outer texture. I couldn't figure out what it was, so I brought it home and promptly forgot about it for a couple days.

the whole fruit

When I picked it up today, one lobe had softened, and with a little pressure I was able to pop it off. The lobe contained a smooth, dark-brown nut!

one lobe off

one nut out

Upon examination this reminded me of a chestnut. I broke off another lobe and found a second pod:

enter image description here

I have no idea what these are; they appear very similar to chestnuts but are missing the pointed tip and spiny shell. I don't know what to make of them.

enter image description here

Does anybody know what these are? More to the point for this site, are they (safely) edible? I noticed a lot more had fallen nearby, and I'm not above gathering some if they're tasty.

closed as off-topic by rumtscho Nov 17 '15 at 15:54

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13

That is a buckeye, fruit of Aesculus glabra, also known as the Ohio buckeye tree. The seeds (the "buckeye" part) look sort of like a horse chestnut, but the fruit is different.

Do not eat it!

The fruits contain tannic acid, and are poisonous to cattle, and humans, as is the foliage. (Wikipedia)

(You can, however, make buckeye candy: peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate.)

This is a buckeye still on the tree, as well as some leaves if you'd like to revisit the source to verify:

enter image description here

  • Actually, the seeds may be edible if you cook them properly to leach out the toxins: ("Aesculin is the toxic substance in buckeye seeds. Native Americans boiled buckeyes to leach out aesculin and make them edible for humans." ref) However, given the lack of "recipes" available, the amount of work required, and the high risk of not getting all the aesculin out -- I still don't recommend trying it. – Erica Sep 7 '15 at 11:31
  • Bummer that they can't be eaten, but thanks for satisfying my curiosity! Now I have to figure out what an Ohio buckeye tree is doing in Minnesota, well outside its natural range... – logophobe Sep 8 '15 at 3:02
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These are what we Brits would call Conkers! Only we use a close relative - the horse chestnut. The schoolyard game of Conkers involves drilling a hole, threading a string with a knot and taking it in turns to smash your opponent's conker. Surfice to say that there is very little use for them aside from the wartime production of acetone. Horse chestnut trees are so abundant here that it seems a shame a more useful tree couldn't have been planted.

  • -1, because this isn't a horse chestnut (conkers). The brown inside looks pretty similar, but you can clearly see the difference on the green outside of the fruit. – rumtscho Sep 9 '15 at 10:08
  • 1
    "Only we use a close relative - the horse chestnut." Thanks for marking me down without reading properly! – worthwords Nov 28 '15 at 3:18

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