Hello fellow readers,
One of the native trees that grace my yard is a shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). Its common name speaks for itself, with shaggy bark that stands out like a sculpture. But a treasure to some can be a nuisance to others. It’s true, the first time a golf ball sized nut thumped my head it was a stinging surprise. Then there’s the feeling of walking on marbles during the fall nut drop. Still, I’m glad bear, fox, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and turkeys enjoy the nuts before I tackle the cleanup which makes the task far lighter to manage. We can eat shagbark nuts too; second to pecans in terms of hickory nut favorites.
Shagbark hickory produce juglone, a natural herbicide, but in far less concentration than the Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) which is famous for being allelopathic – a fancy word for emitting chemicals that harm other plants. Juglone gives black walnuts a competitive advantage to non-tolerant plants within 50 to 80 feet.
While many plants suffer or die cohabitating around black walnuts such as everyday edibles like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and berries plus woody plants such as rhododendron, lilacs, hydrangeas, privets, and pines, there are many plants that will thrive.
Perennials and ground covers such as aster, astilbe, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, daylily, ferns, phlox, sweet woodruff, and pachysandra to name a few. Woody plants such as Eastern redbud, Canadian hemlock, hickory, most maples, oaks, red cedar, forsythia, and most viburnum will do well too. You can find comprehensive lists of black walnut tolerant plants following the links below.
Recently I met with dog owners Rachel and Chip of Hardwick NJ who have a healthy population of black walnut trees, much to their chagrin. Though dogs are not harmed by the nuts themselves, it’s the mold on the nuts if ingested that can cause seizures. Horses exposed to black walnuts can suffer from laminitis resulting in pain and lameness as well. Hence its best to move nuts away from pets as soon as they drop which does seem laborious. But it would be a shame to remove the magnificent native shade trees; with their fern-like foliage that turns brilliant yellow in fall and their showy deeply ridged bark. Black walnuts feed the same wildlife as shagbarks and are also edible to those willing to tackle their husks. Woodworkers covet black walnut too. Perhaps it goes without saying, don’t add remnants from black walnut trees into your general use compost or mulch. And keep in mind – for every living thing there is a great purpose.
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Helpful Plant Lists tolerant of Black Walnut :