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Juglans cinerea - L.

Common Name Butternut - White Walnut, Butternut
Family Juglandaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards The naphthoquinone constituents may cause gastric (stomach) irritation. Avoid in patients with gallstones [301].
Habitats Usually found in rich moist soils of woods and river terraces[43, 82], but it also grows on dry rocky soils, especially if these are on limestone[226]..
Range Eastern N. America - New Brunswick to Georgia, west to Arkansas and North Dakota.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Juglans cinerea Butternut - White Walnut, Butternut

Juglans cinerea Butternut - White Walnut, Butternut


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Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Juglans cinerea is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Wallia cinerea. Nux cinerea

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Sap  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil  Sweetener

Seed - eaten raw or ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making cakes, biscuits, muffins, bread etc[183]. Oily and sweet tasting with a rich agreeable flavour[11, 62, 63. 101, 183]. The oil in the seed is not very stable and the seed soon becomes rancid once it is opened[82]. The kernel is usually only about 20% by weight of the whole seed[160] and is hard to extract[226]. The unripe fruit can be pickled[183]. The seed is 3 - 6cm in diameter and is produced in clusters of 3 - 5 fruits[82, 229]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[101, 117, 183], it tends to go rancid quickly. The sweet sap is tapped in spring and can be used as a refreshing drink[101]. It can also be boiled down to a syrup or sugar, or added to maple syrup[82, 101, 117, 159, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Astringent  Cholagogue  Dysentery  Febrifuge  Laxative  Odontalgic  Stomachic

Butternut was used by various native North American Indian tribes as a laxative and tonic remedy to treat a variety of conditions including rheumatic and arthritic joints, headaches, dysentery, constipation and wounds[254]. In modern herbalism it is considered to be a valuable remedy for chronic constipation, gently encouraging regular bowel movements. It is especially beneficial when combined with a carminative herb such as Angelica archangelica[254]. The quills or inner bark are one of the few potent laxatives that are safe to use in pregnancy [301. Butternut also lowers cholesterol levels and promotes the clearance of waste products by the liver[254]. An infusion of the inner-bark is used as a cholagogue, febrifuge, mild laxative and stomachic[4, 46, 61, 82, 159, 165, 213, 222]. It is effective in small doses without causing cramps[222]. The bark is best collected in the autumn[213]. Best collected in late spring according to another report[4]. An infusion of the dried outer bark is used in the treatment of toothache and dysentery[226]. The oil from the nuts is used in the treatment of tapeworms and fungal infections[4, 222].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Herbicide  Oil  Wood

A yellow to orange dye is obtained from the seed husks[46, 61, 82] and from the bark[57]. It is dark brown[95, 101]. It does not require a mordant[169]. The seed husks can be dried and stored for later use[169]. A light brown dye is obtained from the young twigs, leaves, buds and unripe fruit[117, 169, 213]. It does not require a mordant[169]. The leaves can also be dried and stored for later use[169]. A black dye is obtained from the young roots[257]. Plants produce chemicals which can inhibit the growth of other plants. These chemicals are dissolved out of the leaves when it rains and are washed down to the ground below, reducing the growth of plants under the tree[18, 20, 159]. The roots of this species produce substances that are toxic to many plant species, especially apples (Malus species), members of the Ericaceae, Potentilla spp and the white pines (certain Pinus spp.)[200, 201]. Wood - coarse-grained, light, soft, not strong, very attractive[46, 61, 82, 117]. It weighs 25lb per cubic foot[235]. It is not as valuable a crop as the black walnut (J. nigra), but is used indoors for furniture, doors etc[229]. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form - used as fertilizer or to improve mulch.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

Landscape Uses:Specimen. Requires a deep well-drained loam and a position sheltered from strong winds[1, 11]. Prefers a slightly alkaline soil[200]. Prefers a sandy soil with a pH around 6 to 7[160]. Dislikes compacted soils or clay sub-soils, otherwise trees grow well on most soils[160]. This is the most cold-resistant of the walnuts[117], tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c in N. America when fully dormant[160]. It is less hardy in Britain, unfortunately, because the wood does not ripen so well here due to our cooler summers. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts[200]. Sometimes cultivated in N. America for its edible seed, there are some named varieties[63, 117, 183]. Trees can come into bearing in 6 - 10 years from seed and fruiting is usually biennial[160]. The trees are quite short-lived, seldom exceeding 80 - 90 years[229]. They require about 105 frost-free days in order to ripen a crop in N. America[160]. Unfortunately, they have not proved successful as a nut tree in Britain, usually failing to produce a crop[11]. This is probably due to our cooler summers[11]. It is sometimes planted as a timber tree in Denmark and Rumania[50]. Plants produce a deep taproot and are intolerant of root disturbance. Seedlings should be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible and given some protection for their first few winters since they are somewhat tender when young[1, 11]. Trees cast a dense shade which reduces the amount of species able to grow below them[201]. We have no specific information for this species, but the roots of several members of this genus produce substances that are toxic to many plant species, especially apples (Malus species), members of the Ericaceae, Potentilla spp and the white pines (certain Pinus spp.)[200]. The leaves of many species also secrete substances that have an inhibitory affect on plants growing underneath them. All in all this is not a very good companion plant[K]. Plants should only be pruned when they are fully dormant in winter or when they are in full leaf, otherwise any cuts will bleed profusely[200]. Hybridizes with J. ailantifolia, there are some named varieties of this hybrid that are grown for their edible seed[160]. Special Features:North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 9 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a standard with a non-suckering single trunk [1-2]. The root pattern is a tap root similar to a carrot going directly down [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in individual deep pots in a cold frame[80]. You need to protect it from mice, birds, squirrels etc. The seed usually germinates in late winter or the spring. Plant out the seedlings into their permanent positions in early summer and give some protection from the cold for their first winter or two. The seed can also be stored in cool moist conditions (such s the salad compartment of a fridge) over the winter and sown in early spring but it may then require a period of cold stratification before it will germinate[78, 80].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Juglans ailanthifoliaJapanese WalnutTree20.0 4-8  LMHNM315
Juglans ailanthifolia cordiformisHeartseed WalnutTree20.0 4-8 MLMHNM414
Juglans californicaCalifornia Walnut, Southern California walnutTree6.0 7-10 MLMHNM212
Juglans cathayensisChinese WalnutTree20.0 4-8  LMHNM301
Juglans hindsiiHind's Black Walnut, Northern California walnut, Paradox hybrid walnutTree15.0 8-9 MLMHNM303
Juglans intermediaHind's Black Walnut, Northern California walnut, Paradox hybrid walnuHTree30.0 4-8  LMHNM301
Juglans majorArizona WalnutTree15.0 8-11 FLMHNM202
Juglans mandschuricaManchurian WalnutTree20.0 4-8  LMHNM314
Juglans microcarpaTexas Walnut, Little walnut, Stewart's little walnutTree10.0 5-9  LMHNM203
Juglans neotropicaAndean WalnutTree25.0 10-12 SLMHNM324
Juglans nigraBlack WalnutTree30.0 4-9 FLMHNM334
Juglans olanchanaOlancho walnut, Central American walnutTree45.0 10-12 MLMHSNMWe203
Juglans regiaWalnut, English walnut, Persian Walnut,Tree20.0 7-9 MLMHNM434
Juglans regia fallaxWalnutTree30.0 4-8  LMHNM301
Juglans regia kamaoniaWalnutTree30.0 4-8  LMHNM333
Juglans sinensis Tree20.0 -  LMHNM311
Juglans x bisbyiBuartnutTree20.0 4-8  LMHNM302

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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