Reaching heights of up to 130 feet in a comparatively short life span, 125-135 years, Juglans Nigra or the black walnut is prized for it’s beautiful wood and incredibly useful nuts. Native to eastern North America this wonderful hardwood flourishes in riparian zones from southern Canada to northern Florida and west to eastern Texas and the Dakotas. Not surprisingly it’s deeply furrowed bark is grey-black, protects yellow-grey to nearly white sapwood, and a heartwood prized for its pale to dark chocolate brown color. Black walnut usually has a straight grain but it is possible for the heartwood to also have figured patterns such as curls, crotches, or burls. Like other trees of the Fagales order (oaks, hickories, chestnuts, birches), black walnut is renowned for its durability and strength. However, along with its natural beauty, it is prized for its work-ability.
This premium domestic hardwood is used very often as material for cabinets, furniture, interior paneling, gun stocks, flooring, paddles, coffins and a large variety of other uses. It should also be noted that it finds popular use in wood turning due to it’s durability and work ability.
Chances are that you have also come in contact with the black walnut through food. As stated above, the fruit (nut) of the black walnut is highly nutritious due to it containing a high concentration of unsaturated fat and protein and are common ingredients in treats like cookies, cake, ice cream, and pies and nutritious fare like salads and as an ingredient to be included in fish, poultry, and pork. Black walnut are also used a source for dye. They contain high levels of juglone, plumbagin, and tannin. If you have ever noticed stains resulting from walnuts on your patio, car, or a sidewalk it is because of these chemicals. Extracts of this natural dye are still in common use for hand crafts and the tannins present in the dye act well to aid dying processes making it useful in the creation of dark ink and wood stain. Walnut shells are also used for a variety of things like abrasive cleaning (blast media), cosmetics, oil well drilling, and water filtration.
All in all it would be hard to overstate the popularity of the black walnut as a preferred choice for wood workers. The fact that its fruit (nut) is so useful just makes it all the more amazing. Cheers to you J. Nigra.