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A mature Butternut tree
A mature Butternut tree
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Fagales
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Family: Juglandaceae
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Genus: Juglans
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Species: J. cinerea
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Binomial name
Juglans cinerea
Trinomial name
Type Species

The Butternut (Juglans cinerea), also occasionally known as the White Walnut, is a species of walnut native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada, from southern Quebec west to Minnesota, south to northern Alabama and southwest to northern Arkansas. It is a deciduous tree growing to 20 m tall, rarely 30 m, and 40-80 cm stem diameter, with light gray bark. The leaves are pinnate, 40-70 cm long, with 11-17 leaflets, each leaflet 5-10 cm long and 3-5 cm broad. The whole leaf is downy-pubescent, and a somewhat brighter, yellower green than many other tree leaves. The flowers are inconspicuous yellow-green catkins produced in spring at the same time as the new leaves appear. The fruit is a nut, produced in bunches of 2-6 together; the nut is oblong-ovoid, 3-6 cm long and 2-4 cm broad, surrounded by a green husk before maturity in mid autumn. Butternut grows quickly, but is rather short-lived for a tree, rarely living longer than 75 years.

Butternuts killed by butternut canker

The Butternut is seriously threatened by an introduced canker disease, caused by the fungus Sirococcus clavigigenti-juglandacearum. In some areas, 90% of the Butternut trees have been killed. Completely free-standing trees seem better able to withstand the fungus than those growing in dense stands or forest. The fungus is spread by a wide-ranging vector, so isolation of a tree offers no protection.


The nuts are usually used in baking and making candies, having an oily texture and pleasant flavor. The husks are also used to make a yellowish dye.

Butternut wood is light in weight and takes polish well, is highly rot resistant, but is much softer than Black Walnut wood. Oiled, the grain of the wood usually shows much light. It is often used to make furniture, and is a favorite of woodcarvers.

External links

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