|Monday Melange: Black Walnut|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 06 January 2014|
Native to the eastern US, black walnut (Juglans nigra), also known as American walnut and eastern black walnut, is a deciduous tree whose range extends from Quebec and northern New England, south to Florida and across to Texas and Missouri. It is hardy between USDA zones 4 and 9. Black walnut is a member of the Juglandaceae or walnut plant family.
Black walnut is a large tree, typically growing between 75 and 100 feet tall. It prefers full sun and thrives in rich, alluvial soils adjacent to rivers and streams. The large leaves (up to 24 inches long) are pinnately-compound, the bark is dark gray to blackish in color and deeply fissured and furrowed. The yellow-green flowers appear in late spring.
The edible nuts are encased in green husks (with a not unpleasant, but distinct “walnut” odor) that are fairly large, about 2 inches in diameter and appear in late summer. As the nuts mature they fall to the ground and the husks turn black. The husks will stain hands and clothing and can be used to make a brownish-black dye. The wood of the black walnut is very dense and is prized in furniture making.
Black walnut is not a tree for a small lot; however, for a large property or farmstead, particularly one with some woodland trees adjacent to a stream, it is ideal. One other thing that readers should be aware of is that black walnuts are allelopathic plants. What this means is that they secrete a chemical that inhibts the establishment and growth of other plants around them. In other words, don't bother trying to grow a groundcover under a black walnut. It won't work! Learn more about allelopathy and biochemical plant competition.
Photo source: www.mobot.org