butternut (Juglans cinerea)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for butternut is
Juglans cinerea L. Butternut and black walnut (Juglans nigra) are very
similiar, but can be distinguished by certain morphological differences.
Butternut has a pad of small dense hairs extending crosswise along the
upper margin of the old leaf scars; in black walnut this pad is absent. The
underside leaflets of butternut are densely covered with stellate hairs,
while in black walnut leaflet hairs are almost inconspicuous. Recognized
hybrids are as follows: Juglans cinerea x Juglans regia=Juglans X quad-
rangulata, Juglans cinerea x Juglans ailantifolia=Juglans X bixbi. Reports
of crosses between butternut and black walnut have not been substantiated.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Butternut is a small to
medium-sized tree averaging 40 to 60 feet (12-18 m) in height and 12 to 24
inches (30-60 cm) in d.b.h. This tree has a short trunk which is divided into
a few ascending limbs with large spreading, sparsely forked branches. The
smaller branches tend to bend downwards and then turn up at the ends.
The crown is open, broad, irregular in outline and rounded at the top. The
root system is composed of a number of wide-spreading laterals that grow
to a considerable depth. Usually a taproot develops in deep soils. Butternut
grows fast, especially as a seedling, but usually does not live longer than 75
REGENERATION PROCESSES: Commercial seed-bearing age begins
at 20 years and is optimum from 30 to 60 years. Good crops of seed can
be expected every 2 to 3 years. A high percentage of seeds are sound, but
high seed losses occur due to consumption by birds, insects, and rodents.
Natural pollination failures often occur due to the lack of pollinated trees in
immediate vicinity. Upon ripening, seeds are dispersed by gravity, squirrels,
and other rodents.
Stumps of young butternut trees and saplings can sprout.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Butternut is found most frequently in
coves, on stream benches and terraces, on slopes, in the tallus of rock
ledges, and on other sites with good drainage. It is found up to an elevation
of 4,900 feet (1,500 m) in the Virginias. Common tree associates include
black walnut (Juglans nigra), hickory (Carya spp.), and white ash (Fraxinus
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Although young trees can tolerate partial
shade, butternut must be in the overstory to thrive and is classified as
intolerant to shade and competition. Like other members of the
Junglandaceae family, butternut produces a substance called juglone, a
naphthoquinone that is selectively toxic to associated vegetation. Greatest
concentrations of juglone are in root tissue and fruit husks, with lesser
amounts in the leaves, catkins, buds, and inner bark.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Butternut flowers from April to June,
depending on location. The fruit matures in September and October and
usually remains on the tree until after leaf fall.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Butternut is distributed from southeastern
New Brunswick throughout the New England States except for northern
Maine and Cape Cod. Its range extends south to include northern New
Jersey, western Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee. Small isolated pockets
occur in North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, northern Georgia,
northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, and Arkansas. Westward it is
found in eastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota. Disjunct populations
occur in Wisconsin, Michigan, and northeast into Ontario and Quebec.
Throughout most of its range, butternut is not a common tree and its
frequency is declining. The ranges of butternut and black walnut overlap,
but butternut occurs farther north than and not as far south as black
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Butternut is found
with many other tree species in several hardwood types in the mixed meso-
phytic forest. It is an associated species in the following four northern and
central forest cover types: Sugar Maple-Basswood; Yellow-Poplar-White
Oak-Northern Red Oak; Beech-Sugar Maple; and River Birch-Sycamore.
Commonly associated trees include basswood (Tilia spp.), black cherry
(Prunus serotina), beech (Fagus grandifolia), black walnut (Juglans nigra),
elm (Ulmus spp.), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), hickory (Carya spp.), Oak
(Quercus spp.), red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum),
yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), white ash (Fraxinus americana),
and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). In the northeast part of its range,
it is often found with sweet birch (Betula lenta) and in the northern part of
its range it is occasionally found with white pine (Pinus strobus). Forest
stands seldom contain more than an occasional butternut tree, although in
local areas it may be abundant.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Butternut fruit provides food for squirrels
and other rodents. Butternut leaves are palatable to white-tailed deer.
Butternut has been recommended for planting on surface mined areas in
Butternut is not an important lumber species. The wood is soft and suitable
only for a few uses such as interior finishing, furniture, cabinet work, and
small household woodenware.
Several cultivars have been selected for nut size and for ease of cracking
and extracting kernels. Nuts are especially popular in New England for
making maple-butternut candy. An iodinelike yellow dye can be extracted
from the fruit husks and bark, and the root bark provides a laxative.
Crooked Run Valley