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JUGLANS cinerea

Image of Juglans cinerea

Jesse Saylor



Botanical Name

JUGLANS cinerea

Plant Common Name


General Description

A fine hardwood tree, butternut is most revered for its fall crops of nuts with oil-rich, edible nutmeats that have a buttery texture and sweet flavor. It also has fine wood, which is hard, slow to rot and valued for furniture making and wood carving. This medium-sized deciduous tree is native to the northeastern quarter of the United States and the far southeastern section of Canada. It develops a broad crown comprised of upright, somewhat sparse branches and is slow growing.

Its compound foliage is made up of 11 to 19 leaflets. Each dark green leaflet is long, lance-shaped and fuzzy with tiny teeth along the edges. As the foliage emerges in mid to late-spring, separate male and female flowers appear along the branches. The male flowers, called catkins, dangle downward and are followed by small spikes of greenish yellow female flowers. The male and female flowers do not tend to bloom together on the same tree.

The fruits mature in late summer or fall. These are greenish yellow, fuzzy, oblong and heavy, so beware walking under the canopy of these trees when the fruit begins to drop after leaf fall. The nuts are surrounded by a fragrant, green fruit husk that is is leathery and sticky. The nuts underneath are protected by a hard shell that can be broken open to reveal the sweet nutmeats that are deliciously edible. Fall foliage color is yellow and the winter bark is gray, ridged and furrowed with diamond-like patterns.

This is an upland tree that is adapted to fertile soils with excellent drainage. In the wild, it can often be found growing along rocky outcrops and slopes and is not too pH sensitive but does tend to favor alkaline soils. Butternut requires full sun for best growth and nut production. It is a good tree for wildlife and naturalistic plantings on parks or campuses and may also be grown as a nut tree. This is not a good tree for manicured gardens or highly trafficked areas because of its heavy nuts stain and litter sidewalks and can put dents in cars.

Butternut is short-lived and rarely exceeds 75 years of age.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    40'-60' / 12.2m - 18.3m

  • Width

    40'-60' / 12.2m - 18.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Gold

  • Bark Color


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture


  • Usage

    Edible, Shade Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Attracts


  • Self-Sowing