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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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Alkaline 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

Seasons 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.



Location of Juglans cinerea (Butternut (Not recommended)) at the Arboretum