Black walnut (Juglans nigra), also called eastern black walnut and American walnut, is one of the scarcest and most coveted native hardwoods. Small natural groves frequently found in mixed forests on moist alluvial soils have been heavily logged. The fine straight-grained wood made prize pieces of solid furniture and gunstocks. As the supply diminishes, the remaining quality black walnut is used primarily for veneer. The distinctive tasting nuts are in demand for baked goods and ice cream, but people must be quick to harvest them before the squirrels. The shells are ground for use in many products.
THE TREE: Black walnut trees reach heights of 120 ft (37 m), with a diameter of over 3 ft (1 m). The bark is thick and very dark brown; divided by rather deep fissures into round ridges. The leaves are 1 to 2 feet long, consisting of 7 to 11 pairs of yellow-green leaflets, smooth above, pale and hairy underneath; leaflets about 3 inches long, extremely tapered at ends and toothed along margin. The chambered pith is cream colored.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: The sapwood of black walnut is nearly white, while the heartwood is light brown to dark, chocolate brown, often with a purplish cast and darker streaks. The wood is heavy, hard, and stiff and has high shock resistance.
Black walnut is used principally for dining room and bedroom furniture; bookcases; desks; tables; radio, television, phonograph, and piano cabinets; and as an interior finish in cafes and public buildings. The veneer is used for the highest grade cabinets and plywood panels. Figured black walnut stocks are prized for expensive shotguns and sporting rifles.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Black walnut is found throughout the eastern United States. It grows as far north as southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, and southern Ontario. Isolated populations occur in the southern half of New York, Vermont, western Massachusetts, and northwestern Connecticut. Its range extends south to northwestern Florida, and to Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana except for the Mississippi Valley and Delta regions. In the Midwest, isolated populations occur in eastern Texas, western Oklahoma, central Kansas, and southeastern South Dakota. Black walnut is cultivated in Hawaii.