Summer 2019 Newsletter


By Ally Arganbright, UCSC Community Studies Intern


Ethnobotany is the study of the human relationship with plants. Each AMLT newsletter will highlight a native plant that is used by the Amah Mutsun. We hope you enjoy learning more about the useful and culturally significant plants all around us.

Mutsun name: cattYa

English common name: California buckeye

Botanical name: Aesculus californica 

Buckeye (chattYa) is commonly found on dry open hillsides, and is widely distributed in California along the central coast and in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range. Buckeye grows 10 to 15 feet tall, and can be identified by its whitish to gray bark and palmately compound leaflets. The flowers are pinkish white, and are about ½ inch long in large cylindrical erect clusters around 6 to 10 inches long. The outside seed hull is pear shaped, round, shiny, with brown skin, while the inside has a white meat that has many different uses. 

After cracking the outer shell and leaching the inner meat to remove the poisonous tannins, the meat can be mashed and was eaten with sea kelp, meat, and seafood. The wood of buckeye can also be used to make a drill stick and block for a fire kit, and can also be used to make bows. As well, in summer, buckeye nuts were ground and sprinkled into pools to kill fish.  

Please do not reproduce this material without permission.