Worldwide there are twenty-one known species of walnut trees, and in Missouri the most common are the Black Walnut, Butternut and English Walnut. Of the three the Black walnut and butternut are native to our state. The English walnut is grown predominantly for food and is not known to be invasive or to spread out of areas where it is grown. At the turn of twentieth century Missouri was a leading timber producing state, with the 1909 being the peak of production. By 1910 nearly all trees large enough for logging had been cut. By 1920 there were no more large trees remaining that were suitable for logging and regeneration efforts began in earnest. Currently Missouri has fourteen million acres of forest land and ranks seventh out of twenty states in the Northeast in the amount of forested areas. Eighty-five percent of that land is privately owned, twelve percent is owned by the Federal government; predominantly in the Mark Twain National Forest, the remaining three percent is owned by state and local governments. One of the most common trees within these timber areas is the black walnut. Currently Missouri is the top producer of black walnut, and the nut is recognized as our state nut. Black walnuts, while loved by many for their nut meat can be a bit of a challenge to hull. Their outer shells are much thicker and harder than the English walnut making it a bit more difficult to get to the tasty treat inside. The nut has a stronger taste than its English counterpart and typically produces less nut meat per nut. Black walnut trees however are highly prized Worldwide for their durability and beauty. Because black walnut is a hardwood with a dense tight-grained appearance that polishes to a smooth finish, it is highly sought after worldwide in furniture making, fence building, woodwork in homes and for barns. Gun manufacturers have also traditionally used walnut for gun stocks. While other woods are also utilized, walnut is generally considered the premium wood for gun stocks. This in large part is due to the resilience to compression along the grain of the wood making it a sturdy (and beautiful) choice for guns.
These ancient trees are arguably one of the most important trees growing in our landscape. From prized lumber, tasty nuts, medicinal qualities, shade, and food for wildlife the walnut tree is truly a tree fit for royalty!