Black Walnut

Garden Clippings for Dec 24, 2022

“It’s just a tree”, she said.

“Well, no, it’s a Walnut Tree, and it’s awesome”, I replied as I took the time to take yet another picture of yet another tree.

I will admit that I am not the best partner to accompany on a brisk walk, because I stop too often to examine the details.  I call it smelling the roses.  She calls it interrupting.

In the next few Garden Clippings, I will take a closer look at trees that are found along the Howard Watson Nature Trail.

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is a tree that is both loved and loathed.  Loved for its massive size, toughness and fine lumber, but loathed for its golf ball sized nuts and bullish attitude.

More often than not, homeowners who have a Black Walnut in the backyard are tempted to tackle it with a chain saw.  Black Walnuts are messy, and it is not only the nuts that are a nuisance.  Leaves are compound, reaching 2 feet long, often dropping as early as late summer.

Black Walnuts are allelopathic, meaning they have properties that protect themselves while making life difficult for others.  Black Walnuts exude Juglans from their roots, which serves to poison other plants that try to grow nearby.  Leaves, stems and hulls of their nuts are also toxic and when present in great quantities will harm the growth of many plants.

Fortunately, Black Walnuts don’t discriminate everything.  Vulnerable plants include tomatoes, potatoes, Pine, Cedars and blueberries.  Hemlocks, beans, carrots, Lilacs, Junipers and Dogwood are among the many plants that are not bothered by Juglans.  For a complete list of both tolerant and intolerant plants, do an internet search.

Those who have new concrete driveways and sidewalks will not be fond of Black Walnuts because their leaves and nuts will stain driveways.

With all these negative attributes, why would I consider Walnut to be an awesome tree?

Walnuts become a massive, impressive, stately tree.  When given space, it can grow to 75 feet, with nearly equal width.  Black stems show off Walnut’s distinctive branching structure with pride.

Walnuts are tough as nails.  Although slow to start, once established, they will survive heat, drought, flooding and any pests.  When growing in the bush, Walnut trees will reach over 100 feet as they stretch towards the sun.

Walnuts are prized for their beautiful finely grained lumber, which can be used for furniture, cutting boards, live edge slabs and hobby woodworking.

Next week’s Garden Clippings we will take a closer look at Sassafras trees.