The recent warmer temperatures have melted much of the snow in Yosemite Valley, revealing damp ground underneath. One of the things that was uncovered was the fruit of the California buckeye (Aesculus californica), which had fallen to the ground at the end of summer. As they dry in their new found sunshine, the leathery husk splits to reveal the large glossy brown seed inside. Sometimes, as they split, the fruit can be reminiscent of the eye of a deer, hence the name "buckeye". The seed is poisonous and is not often eaten, although if flour made from the seeds is leached properly the toxins will be washed away. A more common traditional use was to mash up the seeds and use them to stun or kill fish in a small pool of water. Be looking to hear more from this tree soon, as the buckeye does most of its growing in the wetter months and will be dormant again by mid-summer.
Buckeye seeds in the husk and being held for scale.