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Juglans cinerea L.
Butternut, White Walnut
Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)
Synonym(s): Wallia cinerea
USDA Symbol: JUCI
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Usually up to about 60 feet tall. Can be up to about 100 feet tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
PropagationDescription: Plant nuts in fall or spring. If nuts are sown in spring, they must be stratified.
Seed Treatment: Stratify for 60-120 days at 34-41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Edible Plants for North Georgia
January 10, 2010
We are planning a forest food garden in the hollers of the N GA Mountains. Which edible fruit, nut, berry, herb and creepers would be best for this reddish, clay-like soil? The food garden is in...
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Juglans cinerea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Juglans cinerea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Juglans cinerea
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-04-06
Research By: TWC Staff