Should You Grow a Black Walnut Tree in Your Home?

Trees are highly beneficial for homeowners. These great plants can add value to a residential property, spruce up your landscape and provide much-needed shade.

Not every tree, however, is beneficial to property owners. Some, unfortunately, have a dark side. One such tree variety is the black walnut tree.

What is a Black Walnut Tree?

Photo by David Burn via Flickr Creative Commons

Black walnut trees are native to the eastern and central United States. These plants can live up to 200 years and are one of the six walnut tree species found in the country.

A black walnut tree provides a lovely canopy to property owners, stretching up to 100 feet in height. What’s more, this plant can branch to 50 inches in diameter.

The flowers of a black walnut tree appear in late spring. Given that this tree is monoecious, it will have both female and male flowers and will self-pollinate. Female florets will form in small groups on a small spike and will have three to six florets. On the other hand, male florets will hang down cylindrically from the stems.

Apart from providing shade and growing flowers, the black walnut tree produces fruit, which the plant drops in late summer through October. The fruit is heavy and has the size of a baseball.

If you are willing to crack the tough, outer shell, you’ll find that the “meat” inside the fruit is edible. Take note that the earthy and sweet nutmeat is well worth the effort. You can eat the nuts found in black walnut trees in its raw form. You also have the option to use these nuts for other purposes.

These include:

  • Adding the nuts into baking (bars and cookies)
  • Grinding them to produce a unique flour
  • Using them as a topping on cakes and ice cream
  • Cooking them as a sweetened candy nut

Growing a Black Walnut Tree

You can plant this type of type if you reside in USDA hardiness zones 5a through 9a with at least 140 frost-free days and a minimum of 25 inches of precipitation per year. Black walnut trees flourish in moist, fertile, deep yet well-drained soil that has a texture ranging from sandy loam to silty clay loam.

If you want to grow a black walnut tree, you could either obtain a seedling from a local gardener, try to germinate your own by planting nuts or buying a tree. Take note that this tree will attract squirrels, so pre-emptive caring for this plant is in order.

Use a cloth to cover the planting area. Then, lay a layer of mulch (leaves or straw) over that cloth to stop repeated freezing and thawing. Make sure that you mark the planting site clearly.

Are Black Walnut Trees Bad for Gardens?

A black walnut tree produces a toxic chemical that can kill garden plants, such as cucumbers. Photo by Kelly Neil on Unsplash

If you’ve decided to plant a black walnut tree in your home garden, you’ll want to stick with just that plant. This tree produces a compound called Juglone. This chemical can kill a variety of plants, including the following:

  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Potato
  • Thyme
  • Buttercup
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Petunia
  • Grape
  • Cypress
  • Eastern White Pine
  • Silver Maple
  • Russian Olive

Juglone, even in low doses, can be toxic. Simply getting rid of the offending black walnut tree from a potential garden area will not immediately solve the problem. Plants susceptible to black walnut toxicity can still die from the decomposing roots of a walnut.

If you don’t want to stick to planting a single tree, stay away from black walnuts and opt for other alternatives, such as a poplar tree or a persimmon tree. If you insist on having a garden next to the black walnut tree, make sure that you choose plants that are impervious or tolerant to Juglone.

These include:

  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Squash
  • Bellflower
  • Dandelion
  • Glory of the Snow
  • Hawthorne
  • Hibiscus
  • Witch Hazel

Are Black Walnut Trees Profitable?

Although black walnut trees produce a chemical that’s unfortunately toxic to other plants, they can help you make more money.

Black walnut logs fetch premium prices (they have since the 1700s). A single tree can bring you up to a whopping $20,000.

So why are black walnut trees highly valued? The answer is in the wood. Furniture- and cabinetmakers love working with the tree’s close-grained wood because of its exceptional durability and attractive color. The logs are so valuable that “walnut rustlers” take away the trees in the dead of night and even use helicopters in their operations.

Take note, however, that the black walnut tree is not a fast-growing plant. The tree takes a decade before it can even produce nuts. If you have the patience and the time, you could plant this tree as a legacy and a priceless gift for your grandkids and children.

A black walnut tree is a great plant that produces shade and tasty nuts. If you’re going to plant this tree, though, consider the toxic compound it produces and refrain from planting vegetables and flowers that will die from the chemical.

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