Butternut Also known as White Walnut, this relative of Black Walnut is slower growing and much less frequently encountered than its well-known cousin. Butternut prefers moist bottomlands and ravines like Black Walnut, but its lightweight wood is beige-pink in color and is not nearly as sought-out for making veneer and furniture. Its kernel within the fruit gives it the common name of Butternut, as it is sweet and very oily. The Native Americans reportedly boiled the kernels to extract the oil, which was then used like butter. The kernels were also pickled in vinegar by the early settlers.
A native of the midwestern and northeastern United States, Butternut is found throughout Ohio, but is less common in the western part of the state. It may mature at 60 feet tall by 50 feet wide when it is found in the open. Although similar to Black Walnut in superficial appearance, its elongated nuts, hairy stems, and flattened, shiny ridges on mature trees make it recognizable as a different species. As a member of the Walnut Family, it is related other Walnuts and to the Hickories (including Pecan, another tree with sweet-tasting nuts).
Planting Requirements - Butternut prefers deep, moist, rich, well-drained soils under sunny conditions, especially the bottomlands of rivers and creeks. It also performs reasonably well in relatively dry, rocky soils, especially those with limestone outcrops in higher pH soils. Butternut grows in full sun to partial sun, and is found in zones 3 to 7.
Potential Problems - Butternut, like its cousin Black Walnut, produces the root chemical known as juglone, and drops its leaves prematurely due to late summer drought. However, this species of Walnut is very subject to a bark canker that causes twigs, branchlets, large limbs, and ultimately the entire tree to die. As a timber tree, it is no longer of significant value, but its elongated nuts are still prized for their sweet, buttery taste.