- Is Growing Butternuts Possible: Information About White Walnut Trees
- Butternut Tree Information
- Are Butternuts Edible?
- Growing Butternuts
- Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere
- Butternut Tree Identification
- Butternut Tree Bark
- Butternut Tree Leaves
- Butternut Leaf Scar
- Husking Butter Nuts
- Curing Butternuts
- Using Butternuts
- Other Fall Foraging Guides
- Toxic Plant Profile: Black Walnut
Is Growing Butternuts Possible: Information About White Walnut Trees
What are butternuts? No, don’t think squash, think trees. Butternut (Juglans cinerea) is a species of walnut tree that is native to the eastern United States and Canada. And the nuts that grow on these wild trees are easy to process and delicious to eat. Read on for more butternut tree information.
Butternut Tree Information
If you tell someone you are growing butternuts from butternut trees, they are likely to respond: “What are butternuts?” Many gardeners are not familiar with the wild nut tree and have never tasted a butternut.
Butternut trees are also called white walnut trees because they have pale gray bark and are related to the black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) and other members of the walnut family. White walnut trees grow to 60 feet tall in the wild, with dark green leaves arranged in leaflets up to 20 inches long.
Are Butternuts Edible?
When you are learning butternut tree information, the nuts themselves are of top interest. The fruit of the butternut tree is a nut. It is not round like the nut of the black walnut tree, but elongated, longer than it is wide.
The nut is deeply ridged and grows inside a green, hairy husk until they mature in mid-autumn. Squirrels and other wildlife love butternuts. Are butternuts edible by humans? They most certainly are, and have been eaten by Native Americans for centuries. Butternut trees, or white walnut trees, produce rich and delicious nuts.
The butternut is an oily nut that can be eaten as is when mature or prepared in a variety of ways. The Iroquis crushed and boiled butternuts and served the mixture as baby food or drinks, or processed it into breads, puddings, and sauces.
It is entirely possible to start growing butternuts in your backyard, if you have a site with rich, loamy soil. The trees are vigorous and live for some 75 years.
However, the butternut tree is now a threatened species due to its susceptibility to a fungal canker disease, Sirococcus clavigignenti-jug-landacearum, also called “butter-nut canker.”
Its populations in the wild have diminished and in many places it is rare. Hybrids, where white walnut trees are crossed with Japanese walnut, are more resistant to the canker.
Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere
White walnut, oilnut
By Scott Sheu
This species of walnut is less common than its cousin, the black walnut, but nonetheless has an interesting and long history of human usage. The dye of the butternut was commonly used during the Civil War to dye uniforms, so much so that Confederate soldiers were commonly referred to as “butternuts.”
The butternut tree is native to eastern North America, ranging from southern Quebec down to Alabama and as far west as Minnesota and Arkansas. The American Indians favored the nut in their diets, but it also became a staple of early settlers. Despite its importance, the butternut tree has declined since the advent of European settlers and is now sparsely found in the wild due to its susceptibility to cankers.
The butternut tree is a small to medium deciduous tree that can grow up to 40-60 feet tall. The dark green leaves are covered in hairs and are arranged in leaflets that grow to around 10-20 inches long. The bark of the butternut is light gray color in contrast to the dark bark of its cousin the black walnut.
The fruit of the butternut is longer than it is wide, as compared to the spherical nut of the black walnut. The nut is deeply ridged and comes enclosed in a green and hairy husk. If not picked at the right time, the nut can easily turn rancid.
The butternut is an oily and rich nut. Though it has always been popularly eaten on its own, the butternut was also prepared a variety of ways by the American Indians. The Iroquis had some of the most varied and interesting uses for the nut. The fresh nuts were crushed and boiled and served as either baby food or a drink (Moerman). The crushed nuts were also used for breads, puddings, and sauces as well as mixed in to dishes such as mashed potatoes. The oils of the nuts were also used to flavor dishes (Erichsen-Brown).
The butternut tree can also be tapped for sap. Numerous tribes used the butternut sap much in the same manner as maple syrup.
The most famous usage of the butternut is the soft yellow-brown dye that is extracted from the inner bark by boiling it. From the American Indians to later settlers, the dye has been of useful value.
The bark and sap were also often used as a cathartic. The Cherokee made pills of the bark to treat toothaches (Moerman). The Iroquis also had used the butternut for many different things, including the nut oil to condition hair, an infusion of the bark to induce pregnancies, and applied the bark to wounds (Moerman). The nut oil was also mixed with bear grease to ward off mosquitos (Moerman).
The wood of the butternut was and continues to be used for lumber and building materials.
Erichsen-Brown, Charlotte. Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: a Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes. New York: Dover Publications, 1989. Print.
Moerman, Daniel. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber, 1998.
Sargent, Charles Sprague. The Woods of the United States. New York: D. Appleton and, 1885. Google Books. Web.
Snow, Charles H. The Principal Species of Wood Their Characteristic Properties. New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 1903. Google Books. Web.
Butter nuts, also known as white walnuts, are the rich sweet fruit of the butternut tree (Juglans cinerea). They grow wild throughout the forests of the Northeast (Range Map), though they’re increasingly rare due to a disease that’s killed nearly all of the native woodland population.
Aptly named, they’re a lot like conventional walnuts but without any of the characteristic bitterness. Some people liken them to pine nuts because of their creamy nut meat and mild flavor.
My two-year-old son holding a few wild foraged butternuts (husked, cured and dried)
My first introduction to butternuts came shortly after moving to Vermont. I was selling baked goods at a farmer’s market and a man stopped by with his daughter. He didn’t have any money on him, and the little girl was just dying for a cupcake. I offered to just give it to her, but her dad had a better idea. He ran back to his truck and pulled out a big box of butternuts and gave it to me in trade.
I’d never heard of butternuts, and I had no idea what a rare treat I held until I looked them up upon arriving home. (The man also happened to be a justice of the peace and a few years later, he married my husband and me in a small ceremony, with that same little girl serving as flower girl and witness. Small world…)
Ever since that day at the farmer’s market, I’ve been looking for wild butternut trees. The problem is, the wild population is being devastated by butternut canker, which spreads rapidly and kills infected butternut trees. Their bark is distinctive, and just about every time I find one in the woods I look up to see a bare, dead crown.
The bark of a dead butternut tree in the woods near our house.
After more than 10 years of searching without single butternut, I’d figured it was hopeless…until literally tripping over a healthy, mature butternut tree.
While out walking with family in mid-September, my 2-year-old took a bad fall, seemingly for no reason. Like one of those comedic slipped on a banana peel cartoon falls. My husband looked down in the grass and ecstatically held up fresh butternut!
This butternut tree had been hiding in plain sight on a path we walked every fall. With a trunk that was 10-12 feet around, the two of us could barely touch hands hugging around it. Butternut trees grow fast in full sun, but none the less, that tree had been there a long time.
Just a few weeks later, a friend from a local foraging group tipped me off to a huge butternut tree growing on public land. My whole family packed up, and we literally drove an hour and a half across the state on the chance that we’d be able to harvest a few more nuts.
It paid off, and we harvested butternuts by the bucket full. We went home with over 100 pounds of butternuts!
I’ve been told by a friend that works in the state natural resources conservation district that the state of butternuts is not altogether hopeless. Originally, they were tracking living healthy butternut trees in Vermont, thinking they were on their way to extinction, but that a few isolated trees might survive. What they found was thousands of mature, healthy butternuts with no obvious signs of the disease thriving across the state.
Juglans cinerea only had a brief stint on the Vermont endangered plants list, and it’s future looks promising. A decade ago, a four-year-old handed me a box of butternuts, and this fall there were still plenty for my 4-year-old to find.
With any luck, they’ll still be around for her 4-year-old someday.
While butternut canker is devastating to the historical butternut population, it looks like they just might make it in the end.
There are still plenty of butternut trees thriving in the woods, you just need to know how to identify them…
Butternut Tree Identification
If you happen to trip over butternuts sometime between mid-September and mid-October, that’s obviously the easiest way to find them. Butternuts are distinctive football-shaped nuts wrapped in a fuzzy green husk.
I say fuzzy, and I mean it. There’s a very short velvet on the outside of the nut husks, and it’s a bit resinous and sticky. Press a finger into the side of one, and it’ll stick to your finger long enough for you to lift it up for a few seconds.
Black walnuts, on the other hand, have round smooth husks. The trees look quite similar and they ripen at the same time, but the husk shape and the fuzzy/sticky husks is a dead giveaway.
On the tree, butternuts grow in clusters. Usually, they’re just a handful of nuts together, but I’ve read reports of cluster of up to 40 butternuts hanging together.
The nuts fall when they’re ripe, so avoid picking clusters of butternuts from the tree.
I’m hoping to get back and take a few pictures of the nuts in earlier stages of development next year, but for now, this cluster is just about ripe.
Butternut Tree Bark
While tripping over butternuts is nice, it’s not all that common. More likely, you’ll identify butternut trees by their distinctive bark.
Butternut tree bark is ridged, with silvery raised portions and darker intentions. Sometimes the color contrast isn’t as dramatic, but the ridge pattern is always there.
The ridges form a diamond pattern, and it’s more dramatic on some trees than others.
Butternut Tree Leaves
The leaves of butternut trees have alternate, pinnately compound leaves that are more or less identical to black walnut leaves. Spotting the distinctive leaves in the canopy will help you identify this tasty nut, but you’ll need to dig a bit further to positively ID butternuts.
At a casual glance along the side of the road, the pinnately compound leaves look quite similar to wild elderberries and wild sumac shrubs. Those are low growing and not trees, but if you’re just cueing off the leaves, you may well find other tasty wild edibles.
Butternut Leaf Scar
Young trees can be especially hard to identify, as the bark isn’t yet distinctive as it is in mature butternut trees. The same problem occurs in the wintertime, without the leaves attached.
Wintertime, however, is actually a great time to identify butternut trees because of the distinctive leaf scar. If you break off a leaf from a tree in the growing season, the leaf scar isn’t helpful. Wait until the butternut tree goes dormant and take a look at the leaf scars.
This week I was playing tag in the woods with my kids at our local park, and I was literally slapped in the face with the dormant branches of a young butternut tree. No leaves to be seen, and the bark wasn’t ridged yet, but the monkey face leaf scar with fuzzy eyebrows means I found a baby butternut tree!
Butternut Leaf Scar
Husking Butter Nuts
I’d heard that butternuts were like black walnuts, notoriously difficult to husk and crack. In reality, butternut husks come off quite easily and the nuts crack simply as well.
The first time I harvested butternuts, we only had about 50 nuts and I just took a sharp paring knife and scored the husks before popping them off with my hands.
This method is simple, clean and effective with a small number of nuts, but it is time-consuming.
Husking Butternuts by scoring the green husks with a sharp knife.
Samuel Thayer’s book A Forager’s Harvest warns against husking butternuts by driving your car over them. While it does work, a car is overkill, and it puts micro-cracks in the nutshells beneath, causing the nuts to go rancid prematurely.
Butternuts will keep in the shell for years, so there’s no reason to damage the shell if you can avoid it.
Instead, he suggests placing the nuts on a table, narrow side up. Then giving them a careful blow with a hammer or rubber mallet. That causes the husk to pop off a nutshell.
Mallet Cracked Butternut Husk
This method worked incredibly well, and a single sharp strike with a rubber mallet was all it took to remove most butternut husks.
If the nut was slightly underripe or too freshly fallen, the husk really clung and wouldn’t come off. Allow those nuts to rest another few days until the husk starts to yellow and then the husk will pop right off.
This method worked wonderfully for most of the nuts, and the remaining just rested for another few days before husking.
Opening a butternut husk after it’s been loosened by a rubber mallet.
At this point, you’ll have a lot of butternut husks. The husks themselves take-up about 2/3rds the volume of your butternut harvest.
Butternuts, like black walnuts, contain juglone which inhibits the growth of other plants. The husks are full of the compound, and shouldn’t be put into the compost. Even using wood ash in the garden after burning black walnut or butternut wood will spread the compound.
It’s really pervasive, and the best place to spread the husks is in the woods near juglone tolerant trees like maple.
Butter nuts in brown shells (front) and their husks (back)
While this method was very easy, it was quite messy. Butternut juice splattered everywhere and stained badly. The juice from fresh nuts is clear, and you won’t see it right away. Within a few hours though, it stains whatever it touches brown to black.
My hands didn’t stain at all when I husked the nuts with a paring knife, so I got cocky and thought that butternuts must not stain as badly as black walnuts. I was wrong…
My hands turned black and stayed stained for about 2 weeks, and my arms and chest were speckled with butternut juice that splashed with the mallet impact. I look like a dalmatian…and I’m just glad none managed to hit my face.
Butternut stained hands
After husking, butternuts need to cure for a few weeks before they ready for eating or storage.
Place the nuts on a tray, ideally in a single layer. Turning them frequently will prevent any clinging pieces of husk from molding, and allow them to dry and fall off.
Leave the nuts in a well-ventilated area for about 3-4 weeks to cure before storage or use.
Butternuts Curing on a tray ~ The nuts need to dry for several weeks before either cracking and eating, or long term storage.
Once the nuts are cured, it can be tricky to crack them. I cracked a small batch with a hammer, which was effective but sent pieces flying everywhere. While butternuts aren’t quite as tricky to crack as black walnuts, this haul has definitely convinced us to invest in a nutcracker.
After a lot of research, we just ordered this nutcracker that has plenty of great reviews and apparently works great for black walnuts and other hard to crack nuts. If it goes through black walnuts, it’ll be great for these too.
Cracking Butternuts with a hammer
After all this work, what does butternut taste like and how do you use it?
For the most part, butternut tastes like a walnut but without the astringency or tannin. Assuming you’ve husked the nuts promptly, and the husk hasn’t had a chance to degrade and seep into the husk (which makes them bitter), a butternut should be sweet and mild.
Think of the flavor of pine nuts, but in the shape of a walnut.
It can be hard to find recipes that use butter nuts, largely because they’re so rare and not something you’d buy in the grocery store. That said, butternuts can be used anywhere you’d use either walnuts or pine nuts.
I especially love the idea of making a pesto with butternuts, since we can harvest them locally and most purchased pine nuts are imported from overseas.
With a bit of searching, I found one recipe using these tasty nuts, and it even includes a bit of acorn flour. We have trays of acorns curing that will become flour later this fall, so these butternut cookies are on the agenda for sure!
A big part of our goal in harvesting butternuts was finding healthy parent trees so that we could plant their nuts. If the parents are healthy, there’s a good chance the seeds may contain genes for resistance to butternut canker.
If you’re going to plant the nuts, they need to be kept moist and cold over winter. Do not husk the nuts!
Instead, start by drilling a few holes in the top and bottom of a 5-gallon bucket. Place the nuts in the bucket with moisture-retaining materials like woodchips, peat and a bit of compost. Seal it up, and bury it outdoors for the winter.
This video describes the process in detail:
The nuts need to cold stratify to break dormancy, and once things warm up in the spring, they’ll begin to sprout.
Make sure the bucket has a tight-fitting lid, and maybe include a few garlic bulbs in there to distract and confuse voles/squirrels/etc that would try to break in.
The following year, plant out the sprouted nuts, ideally by direct seeding. Butternut trees produce a long taproot, and they do best if direct-seeded in their permanent location. This can be tricky because rodents like to dig up the new seedlings once they sprout.
If you do decide to plant them in a protected nursery bed, be sure to transplant them to a permanent location within 1-2 years at most to avoid damaging the root.
This video describes the process of growing butternut trees from seed in a protected nursery bed:
Other Fall Foraging Guides
Looking for more tasty wild edibles to harvest in the fall? I’ve got you covered:
- 50+ Wild Fruits and Berries to Forage
- Foraging Aronia Berries
- Foraging Beechnuts
- Foraging Wild Plums
- How to Cook Dandelion Roots
- Foraging Burdock
Foraging doesn’t stop in the fall, you can keep on harvesting all winter long with this winter foraging guide.
Butternuts, the white walnut! I have heard many people say that they hate black walnut trees (this is a total mystery to me), but I have never heard anyone complain of a butternut. When grown in an open yard, they are beautiful spreading trees that have a tropical feel. They produce one of the most pleasant shades and their nuts are delicious. Sadly, butternuts are quietly disappearing from our woods. It has become quite difficult to find healthy butternuts in the forest canopy. Some estimates are that over 90% of them are gone. Still, every fall I gather, plant, and eat butternuts with my kids. I hope that this article can help you to enjoy these beloved trees.
Butternut (juglans cinera) is a fast growing tree closely related to and resembling Eastern black walnut (juglans nigra). The two trees can often be found growing together in rich flood plains as well as on the thinner soil of the hillsides. Butternut, aka white walnut, is a sun loving tree that grows rapidly. Several feet of growth is often seen from seedlings every year. The leaves are big, over a foot long. They are composed of many leaflets, often 9, with a large terminal leaflet. There are two easy ways to tell a butternut from a black walnut. The first is the nuts of black walnuts are round, while butternuts are more barrel shaped. The second is the bark. Black walnuts have a dark brown deeply furrowed bark at maturity, while butternuts have a smooth, whitish grey colored bark. The buds and leaf scars are worth checking out. The leaf scars look like strange monkey faces (almost everyone seems to agree on this).
Butternuts are dying from a disease called butternut canker, or if you like really tough scientific names, sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum. It is a fungus that kills the trees by consuming the cambium layer. Lots of dead branches in the crown is a pretty decent indicator of the disease, along with swollen, cracked cankers. The logs rot very slowly and I often find them laying across the ground with their bark falling off. The bark is grey colored on top, but jet black underneath. The black inner bark is usually wet and slimy. That slimy black inner bark from dead butternut trees makes an excellent dye.
It is hard to paint a picture of what it feels like to be under a butternut tree. There really is nothing like it. Tree lovers who have walked in groves of Eastern hemlock can appreciate the uniqueness of feeling that certain species inspire. The butternut is one such species.
Today we can find pure butternuts scattered about in the woods slowly dying. We also find them as hybrids along city streets and in yards and parks. In the early 1900’s Japanese walnuts (juglans ailanthifolia) was widely planted as a garden tree. The trees are short (40 ft.), and are often wider than tall. Japanese walnuts produce tasty nuts with some varieties that crack out very easily. For whatever reason, butternuts readily accept pollen from Japanese walnuts. The resulting hybrids are so common that almost all butternuts near residential areas are hybrids. Healthy, disease resistant hybrids are the norm.
It is very difficult to tell the difference between a true butternut and a hybrid. There are numerous things to look at, but genetic testing is considered the only valid method by many. To me, it doesn’t matter that much. I am really just looking at the ecological functions of the trees, not their genes. I’m sure many in the scientific community would shudder at my attitude about this. That is okay. I just want to grow lots of trees and eat lots of nuts. I am more concerned with their ability to grow big and healthy and to produce copious amounts of nuts. I am not a purist, but if you are, there are numerous people working to save butternut trees. Foresters and laypeople collect seed from pure jugulans cinera every year to further the species. A quick internet search will reveal many such projects. I collect seed from every butternut type tree I can.
Butternuts are well named. They taste like mild walnuts with a slight butteryness. They ripen much earlier than many people expect, so are often scooped up by squirrels. I collect butternuts beginning at the end of August some years, with most of the crop ripening in September. The nuts are in sticky green husks, that stain just like black walnuts do. They are so big and in such large amounts that it usually takes only a few minutes to fill a 5 gallon bucket.
A mature tree grown in the open sun can produce unbelievable amounts of nuts in a good year. I have filled entire pickup trucks more than once from a single tree in a single season. It is so much fun to harvest butternuts, that its hard to stop. I like to crawl around on my hands and knees with as I drag a bucket or tub with me. Moving more than a few feet at a time is almost impossible because the ground can be a pure carpet of nuts.
After I collect the nuts, I start processing them right away. If you just let them sit in their husks for weeks, the husks will leach into the nut. This ruins the mild flavor of butternuts, they will taste more like black walnuts (which are good too, but not mild).
You can set the nuts out to dry on some cardboard or paper in a well ventilated space safe from rodents (good luck!). You can also remove the husks while they are green. I throw buckets of them in metal bins with some water, and sometimes with gravel too. Using a paint mixer, I vigorously stir them until the husks are removed. I then set them on a wire screen and spray with a hose. They will look remarkably clean and beautiful after this treatment.
They should be well dried before storing. I store them in large onion sacks to keep good air flow. If they are moist during storage, mold can be expected. Kept dry in their shells, butternuts will be good to eat for decades.
Cracking them is similar to black walnuts. The two options I see are specialized nut crackers or a hammer. If you want to get an excellent cracker, the ‘master nut cracker’ is the best. It works smoothly with a lever action. My 3 year old son has no trouble cracking black walnuts and butternuts with our master nut cracker. If you’re using a hammer, then hold the butternut upright and hit it on the top. It will usually split lengthwise and you can pick out the nutmeat with a nut pick.
The nut meats are great raw, in oatmeal, toasted, or in baked goods.
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
The black walnut tree is one of the scarcest and most commercially valuable trees in the eastern hardwood forest. The black walnut has compound leaves that are longer and more pointed that those of the white ash. The leaves also contain a larger number of leaflets (between 9 and 21) than the ash. The black walnut produces an edible nut that is encased in a thick green or brown husk. There are probably some of the nuts in their husks on the ground around the walnut tree. You have to be careful handling these nuts, though, because of the black dye that is found in the husks. Many animals eat these walnuts including squirrels, turkeys, raccoons and bears.
Black walnut trees often affect the kinds and densities of plants that grow around them. The walnut leaflets are rich in chemicals called “polyphenols” that are an excellent defense against insects. These polyphenols, though, accumulate in the soils around the walnut trees (the walnut roots also secrete these polyphenols) and act as a controlling, ecological force within the soil ecosystem. Careful examination of the ground vegetation around the black walnut tree will reveal an vegetative ecosystem that is different from those found even under the adjacent hardwood trees.
By: MNRazorhead Date:14-Aug-13
I’ve got a new spot that has a bunch of black walnut trees. I’ve never hunted around black walnuts but know that they have a formidable husk and shell. Can/do whitetails eat them, or do they get left to the squirrels?
By: Joey Ward Date:14-Aug-13
They’d both have to fight me for ’em. 🙂
By: turkulese Date:14-Aug-13
You’ve just found yourself a gold mine…. in lumber value.
By: nchunter Date:14-Aug-13
The hardest shell I know of is a hickory nut. My hunting buddy said he watched a deer for hours crunching the nuts to eat the meat. I have a stand in a walnut tree which drops almost every year and i have yet to see a deer eating the walnuts
By: Bowhunner Date:14-Aug-13
I’m not sure about black walnuts. I would doubt it. Of course someone told me that deer won’t eat the acorns off Burr Oak trees unless they absolutely have to. I found out different as I observed several deer eating lots of them when corn and soybeans were green and within 200 yeards of them.
Deer like variety in their diet for sure so who knows they might eat walnuts too.
By: mn trucker Date:14-Aug-13
are we hunting the same spot? i just hung a stand next to some walnut trees. it think it for the squirrels .
By: sundowner Date:14-Aug-13
Deer do not eat hickory nuts or walnuts around here.
By: voodoochile Date:14-Aug-13
not here either
By: CAS_HNTR Date:14-Aug-13
All acorns in Ohio…..others are for squirrels
By: Siouxme Date:14-Aug-13
We hunted the “Walnut Buck” for years in a grove behind the house. Unfortunately, we never saw him feedin there or any other deer for that matter. I’m guessing Wally would be in his teens by now.
By: [email protected] Date:14-Aug-13
My farm has walnuts, shag-bark hickory trees, cherry, and oaks (among other “trash” trees). I’ve seen the deer obviously eat acorns, I’ve seen them eat the pods off of locust trees, and I’ve seen them eat hickory nuts (they look like a dog working on a bone when they turn their head to the side and just keep crunching those hickory nuts), but I’ve never seen them eat a walnut.
By: tonyo6302 Date:14-Aug-13
The only time I ever saw Deer eat Black Walnuts was in Farmville, Virginia, in the first week of November.
They ate them after the outer husks had turned black and mushy. They ate the husks and all parts. I could not believe my eyes.
Haven’t seen that since.
By: huntinnut Date:14-Aug-13
Tony, when were you in Farmville, VA?
By: huntinnut Date:14-Aug-13
Tony, when were you in Farmville, VA?
By: rooster Date:15-Aug-13
My go to stand for the past 7 or 8 years is in a black walnut tree. I have never witnessed any deer eating the nuts in all that time.
By: kellyharris Date:15-Aug-13
I have a grove of black walnuts and have never seen deer eat them
By: kellyharris Date:15-Aug-13
I have a grove of black walnuts and have never seen deer eat them
By: JusPassin Date:15-Aug-13
In a word, No.
By: voodoochile Date:15-Aug-13
if you have ever cracked open black walnuts you know how hard they are . I dont believe that a deer could even break one up . Their jaws and teeth just are not designed for it .
By: MNRazorhead Date:16-Aug-13
Thanks for the info. It’s rare to get this level of agreement her on BS, so I don’t have to look at them as a food source on opener. I guessed this was the case, but didn’t know for sure. Thanks, again.
By: tonyo6302 Date:16-Aug-13
I drew a tag the first year Featherfin Wildlife Management Area was opened. 2006 maybe – I can’t remember the exact year.
By: writer Date:16-Aug-13
Ditto everyone else. No harder nut to crack in Kansas than walnuts, and we have plenty of them and others.
Deer love bur oak acorns, possibly only second to red oak acorns. When the deer quit showing up in our soybean fields in the early fall, it’s usually because the first of the red oaks are starting to drop.
I’ve never seen anything besides squirrels, and humans, eat walnuts, actually.
By: t-roy Date:16-Aug-13
I’ve had the same experiences as TMA1010.
Have to disagree with writer a little. Here in Iowa, they will eat white oak acorns before they will touch the red oaks or burr oaks. Not sure if you have white oaks in Ks.
By: Bou’bound Date:17-Aug-13
they absolutely will eat the nuts, but the problem is you have to shell them first and break the nut meat apart into sections. most guys don’t find it worth the effort.
By: writer Date:17-Aug-13
T…no many white oaks. We only had four on our farm, and over a 25 year period the beavers girdled enough of the trees to kill them.
Huge, cloud-touching, oaks at the edge of our lake. Love to know how many gray squirrels I knocked out of those branches with a .36 muzzleloader or our heirloom .22.
By: SANDMAN Date:17-Aug-13
You need to leave a nut cracker under the tree for them. That would surely keep them occupied.
By: bowriter Date:18-Aug-13
In 55-years of hunting whitetails: I have never seen one eat a hickory nut although I have heard of it. I have never seen or heard of one eating a walnut.
They love the pods off locust trees and will eat any of the oak mast at various times depending on the region. As a general rule, sawtooth are the first oaks to drop and they tear them up. They will eat burr oak and like them at times. You can hear them eating them a long way off.
By: MNRazorhead Date:19-Aug-13
I better go out and get myself a nutcracker then, LOL.
By: bill brown Date:19-Aug-13
Nope. I never saw them eat hickory nuts either.
By: stealthycat Date:19-Aug-13
I’d say no they can’t break the shell
I also seen Youtube video of a buck eating a live bird … so anything is possible I guess
Toxic Plant Profile: Black Walnut
Black walnut trees are considered toxic but are unique from most other toxic plants. They are safe to all livestock except horses, and horses are generally only affected by shavings made from the tree. Black walnut trees are, however, toxic to some species of plants if growing within a certain range of the tree. In fewer instances, shedding pollen can cause allergic reactions in horses and people as well as kidney effects in animals that ingest hulls.
Black walnut trees are easy to identify by the large round nuts that drop after the leaves fall in autumn. They are large trees with dark brown bark that is deeply furrowed. The leaves are long and pointed. Black walnuts are fairly common in Maryland and may live for up to 250 years. They are the most commonly planted nut tree in North America, partly because most seedlings germinate from nuts buried by squirrels.
The roots of the black walnut tree produce an organic compound called juglone. Juglone has an allelopathic effect on some other plants, meaning it can stunt their growth or even prevent them from growing. Juglone has its effect by disrupting a plant’s ability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Not all species of plants are negatively affected by this compound: pasture and turf grasses will grow in the presence of juglone, but many flowers, vegetables, and some species of trees and shrubs will not. Juglone is present in the leaves, roots, husks, and fruit and can be found in the soil throughout the tree’s entire root zone (on average 50 to 80 feet in diameter for a mature tree). Allelopathic effects are not usually observed until the tree is at least seven years old.
Juglone does not pose any threat of toxicity to humans, but gardeners should be aware of its effects and plan accordingly. Using raised beds lined with gardening fabric may make it possible to grow susceptible plants in closer proximity to black walnut trees. Juglone does break down when composted. If black walnut leaves, twigs, or nuts are used in compost to be spread in a garden, the compost should be aged at least one year before being applied.
Horses can be affected by black walnut if shavings made from the tree are used in bedding. As little as 20% black walnut in shavings or sawdust can cause clinical signs within hours of contact. Effects of exposure primarily affect the lower limb and include stocking up, stiff gait, and reluctance to move. If untreated, toxicosis can progress and cause colic, swelling of the neck and chest, elevated heart and respiratory rate, and even laminitis and founder. Clinical signs usually disappear once the bedding is removed. The best way to prevent problems is to ensure that bedding does not contain black walnut. Black walnut shavings are quite dark and easily contrast against light-colored pine shavings. Other livestock species are not affected.
Juglone, the allelopathic chemical produced by the black walnut, was originally suspected as the toxic compound in shavings and sawdust. However, researchers have not been able to reproduce toxic effects when juglone is isolated and administered either dermally (on the skin) or orally (by ingestion). Thus, the toxic compound that causes these symptoms in horses is still unknown.
Black walnut can cause other problems, although these are reported much less frequently than the two described above. Some people and horses are especially sensitive to black walnut pollen and can suffer from allergic reactions when pollen is shed in the spring. Additionally, the husks surrounding fallen nuts can become toxic as they start to decay. Penicillium mold affects the decomposing husk and produces a neurotoxin called Penitrem A, which is toxic to livestock and can be fatal to dogs. People should also be wary; black walnuts are edible but can be contaminated with Penitrem A if they hulls have begun to decompose before the nuts are harvested.
Male and female flowers are borne separately on the same branch (monoecious). Male flowers are in clusters called catkins, 2 to 5½ inches long, pendulous in flower, single in the leaf axils of 1 year old branchlets, the flowers yellowish-green with up to 15 stamens per flower. Female flowers are in a short spike at the tip of this year’s new branchlets with up to 7 flowers in the spike, the flowers with a stout, green ovary covered in sticky hairs and a pair of broad, spreading, red stigma at the top.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are alternate, usually crowded at branch tips and appearing whorled, 1 to 2 feet long, compound with 11 to 17 leaflets. Leaflets are lance-oblong, 2 to 4½ inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide, finely toothed around the edges, with an abrupt taper to a pointed tip, asymmetrical and rounded to straight across at base, and very short-stalked. The upper surface is dark green and sparsely hairy, the lower is paler in color and covered in branched hairs, especially in the vein axils, and sometimes glandular-hairy. The compound leaf stalk is green and covered in sticky hairs.
Buds are light brown and covered in short fuzz, the terminal bud cone-shaped and slightly flattened. New twigs are green to olive-brown, variously covered in a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs, becoming smooth the second year. Leaf scars are more or less T-shaped, straight to slightly convex across the top, often with a pad of dense hairs along the upper edge. Branch pith is chambered and dark brown.
Older bark is gray to gray-brown with scattered pale lenticels (pores), smooth but developing narrow, flat ridges and broader, shallow furrows with age. Trunks can reach up to 2 feet diameter at breast height (dbh).
Fruit is oval-elliptic, 1 to 3 inches long, longer than wide, the outer husk greenish with about 8 longitudinal ridges and densely covered in short, sticky hairs. Inside is a sweet nut with a hard shell. Fruits are usually in clusters of 3 to 5 at branch tips.
Butternut was once a common forest species in the eastern half of North America, but throughout its range it’s being ravaged by butternut canker, a fungal disease thought to be introduced in the 1960s though its exact origin is unknown. The disease manifests as black, open wounds in the bark of trunks, twigs and branches, and can be carried in the husks of fruit, killing any offspring of an infected mother tree. According to the DNR, it was first discovered in southeast Minnesota in the 1970s and has spread throughout the state. Listed as a Special Concern species in 1996, it was elevated to Endangered in 2013. Fortunately, a small percentage of trees appear to be immune so there is some hope of saving the species from extinction. Time will tell. Butternut closely resembles the related Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), which is distinguished by more spherical fruits that are single or in pairs and not sticky, light brown pith in the twigs, the leaflet hairs are not branched, the terminal leaflet is either missing or much smaller than the lateral leaflets, and leaf scars are notched at the tip and lack the band of velvety hairs along the top edge. Black Walnut fruits can also stain your hands black, and broken twigs and crushed leaves give off a strong, pungent odor. Butternut does neither of these.