Black Walnut

Juglans nigra L. – Juglandaceae – walnut family

Black walnut is a messy street tree that is probably beloved by Albion’s squirrels more than it is by Albion’s homeowners.  The large spherical nuts have husks that stain clothing and skin, and the squirrel-buried nuts often germinate as aromatic weeds in flower beds where they are difficult to remove, unless caught early.

The seeds of this species have a spicy, unique flavor that makes them a wonderful addition to brownies, cakes and even ice cream.  In general, most people find them too flavorful and spicy (and too expensive) to eat in large quantities.  Folks in the country are known to put the nuts in the ruts of an unpaved drive, and to use their vehicles to separate the husks from the hard, grooved walls of the nuts.  The hand-staining husks separate easily once they begin to turn black, rot, and contain maggots, hence the use of tires in the home-removal process!  Once the husks are removed, the thick-walled nuts may be put in mesh potato or orange sacks to dry before the labor-intensive process of cracking them individually and using an nut-pick to remove the seed in pieces.  There are commercial processing operations with specialized machinery, but black walnuts are uncommon in stores and are much more expensive than the thin-shelled European walnuts grown commercially in California.

In Albion, black walnuts produce their green, inconspicuous flowers in mid May to early June as the leaves emerge.

Black walnut trees are legendary for producing chemicals that inhibit the germination of other plant species.  They are prized for their dark heartwood, which is used for expensive plaques and furniture, and for thin veneer to glue over particleboard, plywood, or other cheaper woods.

If they are not hollow, large black walnut trees may be extremely valuable.  Homeowners should consider this fact when negotiating prices for their removal!