Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Juglans cinerea

Butternut, White walnut

Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Juglans cinerea (Butternut)
Smith, R.W.
White walnut or butternut reaches 40-60 ft. in height with a spread of 30-50 ft. It can grow to 100 ft. The tree is usually short-trunked with stiff branches forming a wide-spreading crown. Tree with short straight trunk, stout branches, broad open crown, and butternut fruit with sticky husk. Long-stemmed, pinnately-compound leaves turn yellow in fall. Fruit is tan in color and football-shaped.

The edible butternuts soon become rancid, and so must be harvested quickly after maturing. Indians made them into oil for many uses, including ceremonial anointing of the head. They are also eaten by wildlife. The husks of the nuts, which contain a brown stain that colors the fingers, yield a yellow or orange dye. The lumber serves as a cabinet wood.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Green
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: GA to AR, n.e. to s.w. N.B. & in river valleys to c. MN
Native Habitat: Mesic woods; river banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Rich, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Butternut is fairly fast-growing if in its favored moist, rich, sunny habitat. It rarely survives longer than 75 years. The name butternut comes from the mellow flavor of the nut meat. Susceptible to butternut blight, a fungus which forms cankers that are later invaded by another fungus. These organisms eventually kill the tree.


Use Medicinal: The outer bark was once used in medicinal teas for treating toothaches and dysentery, and dried inner bark was taken to purge the system. (Kershaw)
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Last Update: 2012-11-07