Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
The Butternut tree. (By: H. Zell. GNU Free Documentation License)
Urban, Rural or Both: Both
Butternuts (Juglans cinerea). Occasionally referred to as the White Walnut. Basically treat as Black Walnuts, just a different shape - more oblong, rather than round like the black walnut. The shell does seem a bit thinner. I have far less experience with them, as they seem harder to find in my area. I have read that the taste of the nuts can be variable with these. That makes sense to me, as though I think they are very good tasting, the ones I had were not as good as Black Walnuts, however, I've read many say that these are better tasting than Black Walnuts.
On the Black Walnuts page I go into more detail about collecting, cleaning and using this type of nut.
Details of the Butternut. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)
Growing this plant in your home garden:
A great tree with great tasting nuts, but the issue of growing it is complicated by a few factors. For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Butternut tree page.. I just want to say though, in most cases you are far better off growing the Black Walnut as it is a far hardier tree than the Butternut. The Butternut can be a very frustrating tree to grow.
- Plant Size: Normally reaches about 20 meters (65 feet), but can on occasion get much larger, but that is rare
- Duration: Fairly short lived tree - under 100 years
- Leaf Shape: Compound, Odd Pinnate with 11-17 leaflets per leaf
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Leaves: Alternate. Leaflets: Opposite on leaf with single terminal leaf. Leaflets are stalkless
- Leaf Size: Leaf up to 60 cm (2 feet) long. Leaflets up to 10 cm (4 inches) long and 3 cm (1 1/5 inches) wide
- Leaf Margin: Serrated (saw toothed edge)
- Leaf Notes: Leaflets have a downy fuzz on them and are a lighter yellow-green color
- Flowers: Male: Yellow-green very small flowers on long, narrow drooping clusters (catkins) in large groups. Female: small, clusters of 2-6, pinkish
- Fruit: Similar to a Black Walnut, but instead of being spherical, it is oblong. Up to 6 cm (2 1/3 inches) long and 4 cm (1 2/3 inches) wide
- Bark: Light grey, deeply furrowed on mature trunks
- Habitat: Wide variety of sites from rich bottomlands to dry limestone hillsides.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
Butternuts (Juglans cinerea) range. Distribution map courtesy of the USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, originally from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr..
The Butternut. (by: H. Zell. CC BY-SA 3.0)
Beautiful color drawing over 100 years old.
Butternut tree drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 579)
Butternut tree leaf and bark. (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.)
A Butternut with the outer husk removed. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)
Single Butternut leaf with 15 leaflets. (W.D. Brush, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)
Butternut with husk (above) and with husk removed (below). (W.D. Brush, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)
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