European walnut (Juglans regia) carries the names of countries and regions, such as English walnut, French walnut, and Circassian walnut from the Caucasus Mountains along the Black Sea. A walnut (Juglans neotropica) also grows in South Amenca.
North America claims walnuts: white walnut or butternut (Juglans cinerea), favored by carvers, and black walnut (Juglans nigra). It's black walnut, though, that woodworkers covet.
Black walnut's range covers most of the eastern haff of the U.S. and southern Ontario. However, prime walnut requires moist, deep, rich, well-drained soil, such as found in the upper Mississippi River valley.
In idyllic conditions, walnut reaches a height of 150' and a 6' diameter. More commonly, however, it matures at about 100' with a 3' diameter. The tree's thick, dark brown to brownish-gray bark has marked ridges.
Walnut's distinctive leaves measure 1-2' in length and carry a dozen or more leaflets. In spring, flowing catkins emerge on branch twigs. In mid-summer, nuts appear.
Walnut's heartwood varies from a purplish-brown with thin, dark veins to gray-brown and even orange-brown. The narrow sapwood tends to be white.
Unfigured walnut has straight, somewhat open grain. Figured walnut's fiddleback, burl, stump, and crotch-feels coarse-textured. A cubic foot of dry walnut weighs about 39 pounds, making it just a little heavier than cherry.
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