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Black Walnut – Identification in Winter

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Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is a relatively easy tree to identify, as it has so many distinctive qualities. In the summer there are round, tennis-ball-sized nuts, which have a delightful smell.  The bark of black walnut is dark and deeply furrowed.  Best of all are the twigs and buds.  If you cut a twig at an angle, you will see the central portion, or pith, is chambered.  It is also brown.  The only other tree that is chambered (not solid) like this is its relative, butternut (Juglans  cinerea), and butternut’s pith is buff colored.  The buds of black walnut are greyish and fuzzy – lacking bud scales.  By far the most amusing thing about black walnut (and butternut) is its leaf scars – the scar left when a leaf falls off.  The vessels that transport food and water, called vascular bundles, are darker than the rest of the scar, and are shaped in such a way that the leaf scar resembles nothing more than the smiling face of a monkey!  (Butternut leaf scars also look like monkeys, but they have a “furrowed brow” of fuzz on the top edge of the leaf scar.)


7 responses

  1. Deb Hawthorn

    This blog, like your book, is so splendid, Mary! Thank you for offering it to the rest of us!

    February 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    • Thank you so much, Deb. I’m delighted to know there are others who feel the way I do about the great outdoors!

      February 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm

  2. Etienne

    I cannot wait to get up tomorrow and go outside with my 4 year old to look for a Black Walnut! I can rest assured she will l not only love the idea of this adventure, she will be over the moon happy to look for a leaf scar monkey! Not sure if we’ll find one in the winter but we will keep searching! Thanks for this and “all” of your posts! We love to learn from you!

    February 2, 2012 at 4:43 am

  3. What a wonderful little entry, I found myself smiling along with the scar monkey when I saw it! We don’t get these trees here in the UK though, so I guess I can’t go and find a monkey myself sadly. The photo will suffice 🙂

    February 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    • Rouffian

      Thanks for this. I have dozens of these trees on my land in the south of France, but I had no idea what they were. I cut open a fruit once, while they were soft, but it told me nothing. Now i know, I just don’t know why they are so common in the South of France.

      December 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

  4. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who
    has been doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I
    discovered it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this matter here on your web page.

    December 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm

  5. This blog, like your book, is so splendid, Mary! Thank you for offering it to the rest of us!

    May 13, 2018 at 11:37 am

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