Back to favorite trees   Robert Leverett
  Oct 01, 2003 05:46 PDT 


   More thought given to favored tree species has pushed me to add black
walnut to my list. I don't see much of it, but the ones I saw in Zoar
Valley were absolutely gorgeous. Looking aloft into those feathery
crowns induced a state of "walnut-consciousness". Maybe I'm just
becoming "nut-conscious", i.e. more conscious of myself, but I swear I
heard the walnut tree we were measuring call out "be sure to include me
in any future favorite big tree lists".

   The light green feathery foliage has a slightly tropical appearance
and is just very visually appealing. There is also the comforting
feeling that the tree bears edible nuts. Its high value as fine veneer
is a psychological booster and its symmetry is also appealing.

   Great black walnuts of the past suggest that at least in parts of its
range, it achieved great proportions. All in all, black walnut is just a
splendid tree. I am curious as to what the arborists on our list think
of black walnut. Is it an easy tree to prune? What do the artists think
of the species? Fun to draw/paint? Russ, how frequently do you encounter
black walnut in West Virginia?

   So, let's see. I now have white pine, tuliptree, sugar maple,
cottonwood, ponderosa pine, bur oak, and black walnut as co-equal
favorites. Why do I think this list is destined steadily grow?

Colby, you and Ed may have opened Pandora's box.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society
Re: Back to favorite trees
  Oct 01, 2003 08:16 PDT 

In central West Virginia, black walnut is relatively common. In many of the
old farms, the trees were often the only shade trees left in pastures and they
can be encountered in the woodland of any farm that has decent growing sites.

Traditionally, the tree was cut so hard that large, high quality black walnut
trees are difficult to find.

The most significant use for black walnut for decades was in gun stocks.
There are numerous stories among WV gun collectors that can date W.W.I era German
weaponry to when the great walnut embargo was in full effect. There are also
stories of trains loaded with stumps dug from WV pastures for gun stocks as
part of past patriotic and commercial ventures.

At this time, I am involved with marking a commercial thinning on fertile
sites where, for a few exceptional acres the residual stand will consist of
nearly pure 14-22" DBH walnut with scattered cherry and red oak of similar size
mixed in.

Generally speaking, pure stands of walnut are uncommon but I have inventoried
properties with cove site stands of over 100 acres in size where the walnut
proportion has been as large as 38% of basal area. In most such stands, the
trees were not planted but seeded into situations where the land was pastured
(for as long as 150 years). A normal/natural black walnut stand would have as
associated species, red and American elm, basswood, redbud, hackberry, cherry,
sassafras and persimmon.

Very often, butternut trees in significant numbers and in varying states of
decline from butternut canker blight can be found associated with black walnut

Since the advent of plastic gun stocks, the walnut business has really fallen
on hard times. Although it is a very beautiful, durable and extremely easy
wood to work with and is a component of some of the finest furniture ever
created, I really think the long term use of black walnut for weaponry helped to
keep the price artificially high for generations.

Black walnut shells have uses in certain industrial polishing compounds.

My favorite black walnut trait is watching the wood from a freshly cut tree
change color when it is exposed to the air.

There are variations in the color, texture and acid content in the fruit and
the best-flavored nuts are now considered to be from the Missouri area where
commercial black walnut nut production is centered.

The WV Department of Ag used to have a traveling walnut husker that went to
various areas of the state. In each participating county, for several days
each autumn, pickup trucks would be lined up with their bodies loaded with heaps
of sacked up walnuts waiting to get them husked and weighed. That program
ended when Missouri said they no longer wanted nuts from WV and Maryland.

Next weekend, October 9-11, the 49th Annual, WV Black Walnut Festival is
being held in Spencer, WV. Spencer is about 15 miles from Crummies Creek.

Russ Richardson
RE: Back to favorite trees   Joseph Zorzin
  Oct 01, 2003 08:54 PDT 


That's the kind of stuff I love to hear about, a well written "abstract"
of some forestry scenario- by someone who knows forestry, natural
history, markets, and local history. I wish more foresters would do
this- there is so much to learn and so many fascinating forest
scenarios. I only wish I could spend lots of time traveling the nation
and seeing such scenarios. Yes, I'd like to visit autopoietic forests
too, probably more so, but the others can be groovy too. In one, Mother
Nature is "unchained", in the other, she's partially tamed, which is not
to say she doesn't still control the show.

Now, if only we can figure out how to get foresters to tell us their

RE: Back to favorite trees   Robert Leverett
  Oct 01, 2003 09:39 PDT 


   Fascinating material. What kinds of soils do West Virginia's black
walnuts grow best in?

   On my way to Zoar Vally a few months ago, I started seeing black
walnuts appear in central New York. Some old distribution maps show them
extending to the western Mass border, but I'm unaware of any natural

big sassafras, black walnuts, and other tree stuff..   Paul Jost
  Oct 06, 2003 11:13 PDT 

Call me utilitarian, but I went to a 12-13' girth black walnut near my
childhood home to pick walnuts to stratify and plant on the property of
my current home. Can you believe it, but I actually did not measure it!
I did give it a hug test and it was two tight hugs plus. Now, I have
to go back and we can add to the list to bulk up the girths on our site!
The tree is on property homesteaded around 1840 and the tree appears to
have been planted in a row along with a bunch of large mixed oaks. It
is preserved on a park memorializing Jeremiah Curtin, who built the
existing log cabin in 1846. He was the first Wisconsinite to graduate
from Harvard and was fluent in 70 languages. He was the translator when
the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia during Lincoln's term. He was also
famous for preserving many native American dialects which would
otherwise have been lost.

It seemed like good local seed source to use for replanting. About 60%
of the walnuts passed the float test and will be planted in fire
scorched tin soup cans with x's cut into the top of them to prevent
squirrels from eating them but still allowing them to germinate
properly! Once the prairie plants are finished going to seed, I'll be
spending some time on my property conducting a small scale bur oak
savanna restoration. I have lot's of invasive foreign buckthorn and
some honeysuckle to remove. My chainsaw will be getting some exercise
and the Round-Up will be used in force.
Re: Where do black walnuts fit?   Jess Riddle
  Nov 16, 2003 12:23 PST 

The black walnuts at Tamassee don't grow in the dense tuliptree groves,
but they do not form pure stands either. Three of the four individuals at
the site over 120' are slender trees that grow near the bottoms of
ravines. Some of those ravines also harbor tuliptrees over 140', but they
support generally more diverse forest and the walnuts are not adjacent to
the tuliptrees. The more recently found 9' x 131.8' walnut grows just
above the base of a 40+ degree slope. Tuliptrees grow on other sections
of the slope, but are not unusually tall or large. Below the walnut
tuliptrees reach 160.5', but the walnut still has room to form a broad
crown and has no competition immediately upslope.

In another cove at Tamassee I've seen a partially uprooted walnut that
grew within ten yards of a northern red oak that exceeds 140'. The walnut
may have been 130' tall, but was probably less than 130'. Elsewhere in
the cove a walnut has gained access to the canopy by growing on top of a
large boulder.

Another spindly walnut grows in a tuliptree stand in north Georgia. The
tree is close to 120' tall, but the branch structure is such that it will
have difficulty keeping up with the tuliptrees in the future. Spicebush,
upright, grows underneath the tree in such density that in the summertime
shooting vertically with to the walnuts crown is difficult.
The last few trees make me wonder if walnut is capable of competing with
tuliptrees on rich circumneutral sites, but doing so requires structural
sacrifices such that probability of long term survival is low.

Jess Riddle

RE: Where do black walnuts fit?   Will Blozan
  Nov 16, 2003 13:11 PST 

Without exception, all the tall walnuts I know of grow either at the base of
a steep slope or in a deep ravine. 3 of the four over 130' are second
growth. I fully expect the 135' og walnut (130 yrs) to now be at or over
140'. It grows with red hickory and among a carpet of hundreds of American
ginseng plants.