Juglans nigra L.
Wallia nigra (L.) Alef.
Eastern Black Walnut, Black Walnut
Eastern black walnut is a North American native, the only walnut family tree that is a native. It is a member of the hickory family. The genus Juglans means roughly “a nut fit for a god.” This variety of walnut is prized by furniture makers, but increasingly scarce.
Plants: Trees reach 98-131' (30-40 m). In the forest, the trunk is tall and mostly free of branches; in the open, the trunk is short and the crown is larger. Furrowed bark is gray-black.
Leaves: 12-24" (30-60 cm) long, composed of 15-23 leaflets, each 2½-4" (7-10 cm) × ¾-1" (2-3 cm).
Flowers: Male flowers are hanging catkins (long, drooping flowers) 3-4" (8-10 cm) long. Female flowers form on branch tips in groups of 2-5, becoming green fruits almost the size of tennis balls.
Fruits: The green fruits have a somewhat bumpy surface, like the surface of a basketball. They dry to dark brown lightweight balls. The shipping industry could learn a lot from these seed pods. The outer quarter inch dries to a nice protective form-fitted styrofoam layer with a hard shell, and the pod steadfastly refused all careful attempts to open it, yielding only to the force of several hammer blows. The shells are so hard, they are used commercially for abrasive cleaners.
Historically, walnut shells were used to make ink. The brown color comes from juglone (5-hydroxy-alpha-napthaquinone), and also from tannins that turn black on contact with iron. You can make your own ink, but be forewarned that the black ink is very difficult to remove from the skin.
Juglans nigra on Carolina Nature, from Will Cook
Juglans nigra on Missouriplants.com
Juglans nigra on Wikipedia
Juglans nigra at the USDA Forest Service's Silvics of North America site
Juglans nigra at Illinois Wildflowers
Juglans nigra on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Juglans nigra at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Juglans nigra at the University of Connecticut Plant Database
Juglans nigra at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Juglans nigra at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site
Juglans nigra on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database
Juglans nigra on CalPhotos
Juglans nigra description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 14 Aug 2017.
Range: Zones 4-9: