How long do black walnut trees live

Black Walnut Trees: Facts About the Infamous Black Walnut

The black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) is one of North America’s most valuable and beautiful native trees, but it does have a “dark side.”  Here’s what you should know before planting a black walnut in your yard—and how to harvest and eat the tasty walnuts, too!

Facts About the Black Walnut Tree

  • The easily worked, close-grained wood of the black walnut has long been prized by furniture- and cabinetmakers for its attractive color and exceptional durability. Its logs are in such demand for veneer that “walnut rustlers” have made off with trees in the dead of night and even used helicopters in their operations. 

  • The early settlers discovered black walnuts growing in mixed forests from Canada to northern Florida and west to the Great Plains. They found that its rich-brown heartwood was exceptionally resistant to decay and put it to use as fence posts, poles, shingles, and sills.

  • When surrounded by other trees in the forest, black walnuts grow straight and tall with few, if any, lower branches.

  • When planted in the open, the tree will branch out closer to the ground, developing a spreading shape that makes it easier to harvest its sweet, round, two- to three-inch nuts.

  • Settlers snacked on the nutritious walnuts out of hand, added them to soups and stews, and ground them into meal for baking; the hard shells provided a perfect package for storing the nuts over winter.

The “Dark Side” of Black Walnuts

Although the black walnut has many uses and benefits, the tree does come with a caveat: the black walnut’s roots, which may extend 50 feet or more from the trunk, exude a natural herbicide known as juglone. This substance is also found in the tree’s leaves and fruit husks.

Juglone does serve a purpose, though. It inhibits many plants’ growth under and around the tree, thereby limiting the tree’s competition, leaving more water and nutrients for itself.  

Tomatoes, potatoes, apples, pears, berries, and some landscape plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, and lilacs may be killed or stunted if grown in close proximity to black walnut roots or within the tree’s drip line (i.e., under the tree’s canopy). Plan your landscaping accordingly!

A Great Shade Tree

In spite of this, black walnuts make great shade trees for larger properties. They commonly grow to 50 feet or taller and about as wide, but specimens of more than 100 feet have been recorded.

Black walnut’s large, fernlike foliage provides light, airy shade for those grasses and ground covers not affected by juglone. In autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow, contrasting nicely with the tree’s rugged, dark bark.

Black walnuts require a deep, fertile soil with a near-neutral or slightly acidic pH. They are pretty much disease-free and are threatened by few pests.

Picking Up the Nuts

Thud! Thud! Most walnut tree owners have a love/hate relationship because of the fruit which the tree drops in late summer though October. The size of a baseball and colored lime green, the fruit is quite heavy. It makes quite a mess and can be viewed as a nuisance.

Walnut tree owners will spend hours picking up the fruit some years. If you don’t remove the nuts, you’ll trip over them in the dark for the rest of the year (while they rot and mold on your lawn). Hire the kid down the street to pick up those the dropped walnuts (just be careful not to pay per nut—you’ll go broke)! 

Photo Credit: John A. Anderson

Harvesting and Eating Black Walnuts

If you’re willing to do the work of cracking the outer shell, the “meat” inside is edible, as the squirrels will attest; squirrels have little problem chewing through the shells. (Note: Black Walnuts are different than the English Walnuts more commonly sold in stores and shown in the photo above.) 

The sweet, earthy nutmeat inside is well worth the effort. Your grandparents may have harvested the walnuts which can be eaten raw or added to baking (cookies and bars). They can also be toppings on ice cream and cakes, enjoyed as a sweetened candy nut, or ground into meal for a unique flour. 

To harvest, collect the nuts as soon as possible to avoid mold and remove the husks immediately. Wear gloves as the husks stain your hands (and anything they touch). If the nut is too hard, wait a few days and it will brown and soften up.) To remove the husk, you can simply step on them gently with an old pair of shoes. Hose down the nuts in a large bucket to remove any remaining husk.

Dry the walnuts for a couple of weeks on a screen or drying rack or in a hanging mesh bag. You can store them unshelled up to a year. Crack the shell with a hammer to get to the nut meat. (Strike at a 90-degree angle to the seam until the nut cracks). Use pliers to easily clip away the shell to release the nutmeat. Allow the freshly removed nutmeat to dry for a day before storing.

Do you have a black walnut tree? Please share your comments, questions, and advice!

Black Walnut Trees for Sale - Buying & Growing Guide

by Jo Cosgrove | Ecological Gardener, Horticulturist, and Educator – last update on December 2, 2021

Planting instructions

Choose where you plant your beautiful new black walnut tree with care. Every part of the tree except for the nutmeat produces a chemical called juglone, which will kill most plants or trees nearby.

Black walnut trees thrive in a wide range of soils but prefer a rich, loam-based soil. The soil can be sandy or silty as long as it is moist and well-draining. Choose a spot that receives good airflow as low lying areas or closed-in spots can lead to frost damage. Black walnut trees bask in full sunlight, but will tolerate some shade.

Before planting your tree, you’ll need to inspect the crown of its root ball to ensure its root collar is not buried. Dig a hole that is wider and deeper than the tree’s root ball and fill it to the point where the root collar is exposed. Burying your tree’s root crown can lead to a host of diseases, pests and even premature death. An auger may be required to reach the proper depth. Once the hole is filled, water deeply.

Planted by itself, a black walnut tree will spread its top out into a stunning canopy of shade. If planted close amongst other trees, it will keep reaching straight up into the sky.

Watering and nutrients

Black walnut trees do not tolerate drought-like conditions. They need heavy watering, especially until their deep taproots establish themselves. These trees may crave moisture, but they can’t stand soggy roots so make sure they don’t stand in water.


Black walnut trees bloom in late spring for about two weeks, aided in pollination by various bees and other insects. Several dozen moths and other insect species also call black walnut trees home.

Pests and animals

Black walnut trees are very low maintenance. They are quite hardy and have very few natural pests or issues. Though there are creatures that will steal and enjoy your walnut harvest. These include chipmunks, foxes, squirrels, and woodpeckers.


Black walnuts ripen in the fall and start dropping to the ground. These nuts get quite heavy and can grow to the size of a baseball, so exercise caution around the tree. Pick up those nuts whose skins have turned from green to yellowish-brown or tan. Once the skins have gone completely black, it means the nutmeat has rotted and shouldn’t be consumed.

Wear gloves when harvesting black walnuts. The skins and shells will stain your hands, your clothes, or anything else they touch. You can also boil the skins to make a natural dye that turns fabric a lovely shade of yellow.

Dry black walnuts for a few weeks on a screen or in hanging mesh bags — just be sure they’re protected from squirrels and other thieving critters. They store well for quite a while this way. Shelling and freezing the nutmeat extends that time to approximately two years. Black walnuts are difficult to shell for anyone but squirrels, but roasting them beforehand makes removing their shells easier. There are many shelling methods out there. Two popular ones require using a hammer on concrete or running the car over the nuts in the driveway.

Where do black walnut trees grow best?

USDA growing zones 4 through 10 have the best conditions for black walnut trees. This hardy native prefers areas that get at least 25 inches of annual rainfall, but doesn’t like heavy frosts. When the trees are thriving, they will add 12 to 35 inches in height every year. They generally start producing at around 10 to 12 years but can produce fruit as early as five years old.

Are there any plants that grow under or around black walnut trees?

There are a large number of plants and shrubs that are not susceptible to the black walnut’s toxic juglone. Bleeding hearts, marigolds, pansies, and morning glories can grow around black walnuts. You can also grow produce such as beans, garlic, melons, and onions around black walnut trees. Dogwoods, hickories, certain maples, and oaks make good neighbors for black walnut trees.

How long do black walnut trees live?

Individual trees have been known to reach over 200 years of age in forests and old settlements. These older giants were quite common in the eastern United States, but the hot market for their wood has caused a steep decline in their numbers. Domestic black walnuts will grow for several decades or more if not centuries when basic needs are met.

Can parts of the black walnut tree be composted?

It is not advisable to put any parts of your black walnut tree in the compost bin. This includes the dirt anywhere under the canopy. Just as the juglone poisons the ground around the tree, it will also poison your compost. Using this tainted compost anywhere else would spread the juglone poison. It would most likely kill the plants there and destroy that soil too. Burn any debris from your tree or properly dispose of it through your local refuse station.

Compare Similar Products

Customer Reviews


Verified Buyer September 3, 2020 at 12:19pm

Black walnut

Loving our new tree, thank you very much!!!


Verified Buyer August 6, 2020 at 9:43pm

Black walnut tree

It came alive and in one piece. Thank you so much!


Verified Buyer June 20, 2020 at 2:44am

Black walnut tree

Nice big tree love it.

Black walnut | Walnut nursery

Black walnut is the largest tree of the genus Juglans, at a respectable age in its homeland reaches 50 m in height and a trunk of 2 m in diameter. The natural range of the species is North America (USA and Canada). It has been cultivated in Russia since the second half of the 18th century, under our conditions (4-5th winter hardiness zone), the growth of a tree at the age of 50 can vary from 15 to 18 m, and the trunk diameter from 30 to 50 cm. By the age of 100, us, black walnut can grow up to 25 m in height and have a trunk diameter of 60 cm. Black walnut is more frost-resistant than walnut, but inferior to Manchurian walnut and gray walnut. Mature trees can tolerate frosts down to -40 ° C, but young trees (up to 3 years old) need protection from frost and winter winds. Black walnut is considered a drought-resistant plant.

Black walnut gives valuable nuts

The kernel is very tasty, contains up to 30% of proteins, which is 2 times more than in the walnut kernel, contains up to 66-70% of high-quality oil with a special aroma and high resistance to oxidation (not Gorknet) and up to 6% carbohydrates. In addition, it contains a large number of useful elements, vitamins B6 and B2, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, silicon, bioflavonoids and vegetable fats. There are also such rare trace elements as selenium, cobalt and phosphorus in black walnut. The green peel (pericarp) can be used for the preparation of medicinal products, as well as a source of dyes.


Black walnut wood is considered one of the most valuable among hardwoods, has a chocolate-brown color with a density of 0.60-0.61 g/cm3, hard, durable, easy to process and well polished, belongs to the most valuable woods mahogany (mahogany, rosewood).

openwork crown and powerful air purification from microbes

It transmits a lot of light to the soil, creating a spotted shadow, gives a large leaf litter, which increases the percentage of organic matter in the soil. Because of this and a number of others, its black walnut is used in forest reclamation work. Black walnut, like other species of this family, is a powerful filter that purifies the air of dust, soot and other harmful impurities. In addition, it releases into the environment a huge amount of phytoncides, in particular juglone - an antibiotic substance, as well as tannins and other substances. There is an opinion that the ability of a black walnut to purify the air (due to the emitted phytoncides) is so great that if you fall asleep in a place where there are 60 mature trees of this nut per 1 ha, you may not wake up ... Since with such a concentration of phytoncides, not only all pathogenic microflora, but microorganisms that help us breathe (living in our lungs) can also suffer. So don't plant black walnut too often 🙂

All parts of the black walnut contain a lot of iodine, but the highest concentration is in the nuts. In general, this is one of the main land sources of iodine (and, moreover, only recently recognized by scientists), it is well known that seafood is a source of iodine, and black walnut, having good winter hardiness, drought resistance, can be a good source of iodine for regions remote from the seas and oceans.


Healing properties are concentrated in the area of ​​cleaning the body of any parasites (due to the high concentration of juglone), the effect on the thyroid gland (due to the high content of iodine), which leads to the normalization of metabolism. In the descriptions of the effects of black walnuts, there were references to a restorative effect on the nervous system and a stimulating effect on the pineal gland ... Here I recall the statements that in ancient times it was forbidden for commoners to eat walnuts because of their beneficial effect on mental activity, I believe in the case of black walnuts this factor increases several times, because the concentration of many active substances in black walnut is 2-4 times higher. When compared with other plants, unripe black walnuts contain 8 times more vitamin C than blackcurrants, and 50 times the concentration of this powerful antioxidant citrus fruits. Also, Gusman Valeevich at the seminar mentioned the anti-cancer effect of drugs obtained from some parts of nuts, he is interested in this topic as a person who directly went through the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.


Black (American) walnut wood |

Black walnut is one of the most valuable hardwoods. The homeland of this tree is North America, therefore in our area it is often called the American walnut.

Black walnut: key features of

This fruit tree has also taken root in our country. Black walnut can live up to 300 years. The height of this powerful, beautiful plant with a low, spreading crown reaches 50 meters, and the diameter of the trunk is 1.8 meters. The bark is almost black, in deep furrows.

Likes moist and fertile soils, can tolerate flooding.

Of particular value are the fruits of the American walnut - black nuts. They are located on the tree in clusters, and outwardly similar to the walnut we are used to.

Black walnut roots secrete specific toxins, so that no other plants grow above them.

Black walnut wood: physical and mechanical properties

American walnut wood belongs to the sound diffuse vascular species. The core is very dark, chocolate brown, unevenly colored, with purple streaks. The heartwood rather smoothly turns into a light brown, almost white, sapwood. Black walnut wood has large, clearly visible in the cut, vessels. The core rays are almost invisible.

The density of black walnut wood ranges from 610-710 kg/m3 depending on growing conditions and humidity.

Such characteristic of black walnut wood as "bird's pecks" - small knots that look like colored veins with a hole in the middle, significantly reduce the quality of the tree.

Black walnut wood:


But the processing of black walnut wood is not difficult. When steaming, the property of black walnut to bend well is manifested, without losing its shape over time. It is not a very hard wood, but its smooth, coarse texture allows both machine and hand processing.

Black walnut wood is easily polished, sanded, and then acquires a pleasant shine. It accepts dyes, varnishes and mordants well, especially water-based paints and nitro enamels. Before applying a primer, black walnut wood should be well polished. Not bad manifests itself in nail, screw, adhesive joints. However, when using an alkaline adhesive, traces may remain.

Another positive feature of black walnut wood is its resistance to biological influences. Moreover, due to the content of organic acids, essential oils, bitter glycosides, this material has antiseptic properties.

The only place where you should be as careful as possible when working with black walnuts is drying, although black walnuts are not as capricious in this process as walnuts. The material is prone to warping and cracking, but with proper drying it is able to keep its shape well. Therefore, the drying of black walnut wood is carried out under mild conditions. On average, lumber is dried in 30-35 days.

Black walnut wood: application

The use of black walnut wood is primarily due to its rich expressive texture. Often, American walnut fibers are wavy, “drawing” a beautiful pattern on the material; the color can be chocolate, and purple-red, and almost black.

Learn more