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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Black Walnut

Black Walnut

(Juglans nigra L)

  This extremely valuable forest tree only grows well on rich bottomlands, in moist, fertile coves and on lower slopes throughout the state. Its survival, growth and quality on less fertile sites is not good.

Black walnut leaves are alternate, pinnately compound (see foreward for an example), 12 to 24 inches long, with 15 to 23 sharply oval, finely toothed, long-pointed leaflets 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. The pith of new branches is chambered, with thin, buff-colored diaphragms (which are thin, papery crosswalls) defining the chambers, or voids. Leaves turn a bright, clear yellow in autumn.

The fruit, attached singly or in pairs, is globular, pointed at the apex, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and has a thick, yellow-green fibrous husk. The hard, woody nut is dark brown, oval to oblong, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and is deeply divided on the outer surface into irregular ridges. The meat of the nut is sweet and edible and is a favorite food for squirrels.

The bark is thick, dark brown to black and is divided by deep fissures into rounded ridges. The tree reaches 50 to 90 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in diameter.

The heartwood is of superior quality and value. It is heavy, hard and strong, has a rich, chocolate brown color, and it warps or checks little when drying. Once dry, it is dimensionally stable. These attributes, along with the wood's receptiveness to a high polish, make it highly prized for a great variety of uses, including furniture, cabinetwork and gun stocks. Walnut is the most valuable of our hardwoods.
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