TREES & plants

Butternut (Not recommended)

Due to susceptibility to butternut canker, butternuts are not recommended for planting anywhere in this region and usually require removal and/or replacement. Butternut, also called white walnut, is a native tree found throughout the Midwest in moist, well-drained soils. Butternut canker, an introduced fungus, has killed off many native stands of butternut. The tree is related to black walnut and is also allelopathic. The wood is prized for the wood and the fruit produces a yellow dye that was used in the Civil War to color uniforms. "This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
Botanical name: 
Juglans cinerea
All Common Names: 
butternut, white walnut
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-60 feet
Mature Width: 
30-50 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Intolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Prefers
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Excessive sucker growth
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Edible fruit
Season of Interest: 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
  • Birds, 
  • Browsers, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

This species prefers rich, moist soils but can also tolerate drier sites.  Produces a chemical, juglone,  which is toxic to many plants.
Difficult to transplant due a deep taproot.

Disease, pests, and problems

Butternut canker is a serious problem of butternut, limiting its usefulness as a landscape tree.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8

Bark color and texture 

The light gray bark is relatively smooth, becoming slightly ridged and furrowed wth age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, pinnately compound leaves; leaf is 1 to 2 feet long; leaflets toothed; aromatic when crushed.
Leaves are green in summer, changing to yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous;  male flowers in drooping clusters; female flowers in terminal spikes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is an oval husk, up to 2 inches in diameter, containing an edible nut.



Juglans cinerea or Butternut (Not recommended)