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StarsRescue the endangered North American Butternut Tree

You can help rescue the endangered North American Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea)
Butternut is being killed throughout its range by Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum, a fungus most likely introduced from outside of North America. The fungus initially infects trees through buds, leaf scars, and possibly insect wounds and other openings in the bark, rapidly killing small branches. Spores produced on branches are carried down the stem by rain, resulting in multiple, perennial stem cankers that eventually girdle and kill infected trees. Butternut canker was first reported from southwestern Wisconsin in 1967; however, it has probably been present much longer than that based on detailed examinations of killed trees in North and South Carolina. The disease has contributed to as much as an 80 percent decrease in living butternut in some States, in Ontario and in Quebec.

The butternut tree, Juglans cinerea (family Juglandaceae, order Juglandales), is a large tree that reaches a height of 30 m (100 ft); it has gray bark and 11-19 oblong and pointed leaflets. It is one of the hardiest northern nut trees but is frequently short-lived because of its susceptibility to fungal and virus bunch diseases. The wood is hard, light colored, and is used in furniture making and for interior trim. Butternuts are propagated by seed and, with difficulty, by grafting. Black walnut, J. nigra, can be used as a rootstock. Juice from the nut husk and inner bark of the butternut and black walnut has a characteristic staining property. Butternuts are monoecious and grow better than the black walnut on poor soil. Catkins elongate before shedding pollen. Female flowers are pubescent in short racemes of 2-5. Fruits are 5-10 cm (2-4 in) in length with four distinct, irregular ribs, and a sticky pubescent husk surrounding a thick shell containing a high-quality kernel.
Learn how to identify and deal with the Butternut Canker you may find on your own butternut trees.
Butternut Tree
Butternut Fruit Cluster Butternut Bark Butternut Branching Butternut Fruit Cluster Butternut Winter Twig
Butternut Cleaned Nut

(Pix from Virginia Tech with thanks:
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Thank you for volunteering to be a member of the Butternut Rescue Team!
You now know the benefits of having butternut trees at hand. Your participation could prove to be key to saving this species, Juglans cinerea.

As you now know, our North American native Butternut is threatened by a killer canker disease that has already reduced natural populations by nearly 80% over much of its range. More trees are still dying. It is thought that the disease started in southwestern Wisconsin around 1967, and has spread steadily outward since then. Most of the trees still living are in the eastern Ontario and western Quebec region, at the northern edge of the butternut's natural range.

Experts say that there may be naturally resistant butternut trees. If these could be found, they could be propagated, so the butternut would continue to grow naturally. However, we should continue to plant butternut trees at every opportunity - afterall, we cannot tell beforehand which new nut or seedling may have this resistance. Also, some of these may avoid infection long enough for the canker itself to die out or be eradicated, so their genes can live on.

The Forest Gene Conservation Association ((FGCA)) and the Canada Nutculture Association(CNA) are your basic Canadian references.

In Eastern Ontario, butternut tree seedlings can be available for planting from the Ferguson Forest Centre in Kemptville, Ontario.

If you live in Ontario, your local conservation authority can help you. Here are their websites:

  • Upper Thames River Conservation Authority
  • Kettle Creek Conservation Authority
  • Catfish Creek Conservation Authority
  • Long Point Region Conservation Authority
  • Grand River Conservation Authority
  • Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
  • Hamilton Conservation Authority
  • Conservation Halton
  • Credit Valley Conservation
  • Toronto and Region Conservation
  • Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
  • Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
  • Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority
  • Kawartha Conservation
  • Otonabee Region Conservation Authority
  • Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
  • Lower Trent Conservation
  • Crowe Valley Conservation Authority
  • Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority
  • South Nation Conservation Authority, Conservation de la Nation Sud
  • Lakehead Region Conservation Authority
  • Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority
  • Mattagami Region Conservation Authority
  • Nickel District Conservation Area
  • North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority

  • If you live in Prince Edward Island, check with the
  • Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project.

  • If you live in Quebec, check with the
  • Laurentian Forestry Centre

  • If you live in New Brunswick, check with the
  • Atlantic Forestry Centre

  • In Western Canada, from Saskatchewan westward, check with the Canada Nutculture Association

  • To get started today, review the ten ways in which your participation could be most successful, and make a starting choice!

    Thank you again for joining the Team, and good luck to all of us, specially the Butternut!

    The tree line
    As a member of the Butternut Rescue Team here are ways you can help.
    Grow butternut trees from seed. Learn how, then grow your own butternut trees from the seed you collect yourself or can get from others in your same climate zone.
    Here are ten more possible ways you as a member of the Butternut Rescue Team can help rescue the Butternut - and you may have other ideas as well.

    1. Tell the Team what you know about the value of butternuts and what they have meant to people in the past, specially anecdotes about your past experiences with butternuts (and those of your ancestors), folklore you may have heard on butternut's many uses in the past, and any other butternut stories you may have heard. It is easiest if you email your stories to Canada Nutculture Association. Lets hear Mary Davis's story ...

    2. Tell people, your family, friends and neighbours about the butternut's difficulty, the need for its rescue, and encourage them to help you in your efforts, or to join the Team themselves. If it could be helpful to you, an expert lecture presentation could be developed for your use at any meetings of interested folks you might be attending. Such a presentation has not yet been prepared - but your need would be the catalyst. Or you may want to invite a local butternut expert to come speak to your group. Email Canada Nutculture Association or the FGCA about your need. We may be able to help.

    3. Send this web page to anyone you think might want to join the Team. Use your browser to send this page, or send them our web address, which is

    4. Find Butternut trees in your area or around your region. Report on them. This webpage tells you about the Butternut, and can help you identify the trees. Use your favourite search engine to find more web pages about the butternut. Send the pages to us at Canada Nutculture Association so we can add them to our list. Here is our Butternut Webpage List

    5. Learn about the disease, how to recognize it, and then report to the Team on the health of trees you find to.

    6. Learn about Canada Nutculture Association and the FGCA, and what they are doing to help rescue the butternut, and be prepared to tell family, friends and neighbours. The Kit contains brochures on each of these topics, and you can learn even more on the Internet by visiting the two web pages and

    7. Undertake a clipping service on butternut articles you find in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Make a scrapbook of these articles to show others. Summarize these articles and send your summary to Canada Nutculture Association. Send photocopies of the articles to us for compilation.

    8. Place butternut brochures where you think they will get the attention of folks who might want to help. Find brochures at your local tree conservation group.

    9. Talk to TV and Radio reporters and interviewers about the Butternut Problem and the work being done to help rescue the species. If you want the help of a Butternut expert for this activity, check with your local tree conservation group.

    10. Complete and send in the FGCA Butternut Canker Forms for butternut trees you have found.

    Lets work together to rescue the butternut!

    The tree line
    Do you want to help save North America's native Butternut (Juglans cinerea)? Say YES, and join the Butternut Rescue Team today!

    Register now...

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