Leaves of butternut tree. (Image courtesy Ken
Sytsma, University of Wisconsin-Madison Botany Department.)
Butternuts Protected in Oregon Orchard
Wood June 29, 2005
Butternut trees yield rich, buttery-tasting nuts that some people know
as "white walnuts." The tree's wide, leafy canopy adds beauty and shade to
parks and home gardens. Also, wood from this native hardwood and walnut-family
member makes fine cabinets, paneling, trim and furniture.
More than a dozen different kinds of butternut trees are flourishing
in an Agricultural Research Service
orchard in Corvallis, Ore., about 85 miles outside of Portland. The orchard is
part of the ARS
Clonal Germplasm Repository, curated by research horticulturalist
The Corvallis trees, now 13 years old, have begun to bear nuts,
according to Hummer. A butternut type know as Ayers, originally collected in
Michigan, has produced the largest nuts of any in the collection.
Its notable neighbors include Creighton, from a Pennsylvania community
where its sweet-tasting nutmeats made it everyone's favorite; Chamberlain, from
New York, thought to be the hardiest butternut tree in the research orchard;
and Craxezy, a Michigan tree named for its unusually easy-to-open shells.
ARS-funded plant-collecting forays by two
U.S. Forest Service scientists are
pinpointing unique butternut trees that should be represented in the
collection. This year, the plant explorers will hunt for the best butternut
trees in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
To propagate trees for the Corvallis collection, the plant
explorer--with each landowner's approval--cuts butternut branches and grafts
them to a rootstock to form a new tree.
The Corvallis repository is part of a nationwide network of
ARS-managed collections that protect crop plants and their wild relatives that
might otherwise be lost forever to urban sprawl or attack by insects, disease
or other natural enemies. For instance, butternut is vulnerable to a disease,
butternut canker, that has wiped out 80 percent of the butternut trees in some
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research organization.