Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Grafted black walnuts vs. seedlings

Is the high price of a grafted black walnut tree worth it?


The two main reasons that people buy grafted black walnut trees are 1) bigger nuts, and 2) easier-to-crack nuts.

About 14 or 15 years ago, we decided to plant some black walnut trees. We bought a couple of grafted trees from a nursery catalog, and they arrived in good shape and we planted them.

That same spring, someone advertised in the newspaper that they had black walnut seedlings to give away to anyone who wanted to transplant them. Supposedly, the mother tree had thin-shelled nuts, so the seedlings were expected to continue this trait.

My husband went dug up several of those seedlings and planted them in the part of our yard that we call "the meadow" because it has to be mowed all the time. His idea is that if we get enough trees there, the grass will quit growing.

From all that planting, we have four black walnut trees today. Two of them are the grafted trees, and two are the seedlings from the newspaper. All of the trees are well over 20 feet tall, and a couple of them are probably close to 30 feet tall.

One of the grafted trees died back so far early in its life that we were afraid it had completely lost its graft and had nothing left but rootstock. It produced the large walnut in the photo below, so apparently it didn't die back as far as we thought. This is the first year it has had walnuts. The other grafted tree has not yet borne nuts, though it is getting fairly big.



The seedlings have borne walnuts for several years now, and each year, they bear a few more nuts. Their nuts are, true to promise, fairly easy to crack (for black walnuts.) They're as easy to crack as the nuts from the grafted tree, but they're much smaller. One of their nuts is pictured at right in the photo above.

I don't know the answer to my question: "Is the high price of a grafted tree worth it?" It probably depends on the tree that you're getting seed from. I have one observation on the topic. If you're going to harvest and use the walnuts, you can crack out a cup of nut meats faster from big walnuts than from small ones.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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