Black Walnut Tree

Black Walnut Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:

Black Walnut

(Juglans nigra)

By Jeremy Priest

The next tree in our unique tree series is native from South Dakota to Florida and follows the eastern edge of the Cross Timber region to Central Texas. Black walnut (Juglans nigra) has been a prized tree for historic farmland and ranches. This is due in part to valuable walnuts and characteristic heartwood of the tree, but also for it’s indication of soil quality. Black walnut is typically found on deep, rich soils and the wood of this tree is hardy and has beautiful, highly valued grain. The large walnuts produced by this species are difficult to extract, but highly rewarding.

Black walnut full leaf and walnut fruit

Black walnut leaf and fruit

Black walnut is most likely be confused with pecan as it is in the same family and may occur in similar sites. It’s plantation usage was not nearly as popular as pecan in North Texas, but individuals can sometimes be found near old pecan plantations. Black walnut can be distinguished as it contains more leaflets than pecan and the leaf is larger: 12-24 inches long. Chinese pistache has similar leaves, although the leaflets on pistache have smooth margins while black walnut typically has fine serration. This species is most quickly identified by it’s fruit. Walnuts appear dark brown and furrowed after the outer layer is removed, but are covered by a thick, green husk with almost sandpaper like texture when they are immature on the tree. As the fruit matures, the outer husk changes color to nearly black and the husk is absorbed into surrounding soil. Black walnut is an allelopath, which means that it produces chemicals toxic to most other plants. This natural herbicide is concentrated in the husk surrounding the walnut and helps reduce competition for the young seedling. The toxin is not strong enough to harm most trees, but could impact sensitive garden plants and some conifers, especially under a fully mature tree. For more information on juglone toxicity click here.

As evidenced by the naturally allelopathic seeds, black walnut needs full sun when young, and the tree also requires adequate water in well-drained soil. Although the native black walnut prefers a lower pH than typically found in the cross timbers (< 7.5), Texas A&M produces a Texas variety of little walnut (Juglans microcarpa) which is better suited to high pH soils. Black walnut can be somewhat slow growing, except when planted in ideal conditions. Black walnut is similar to post oak in that it produces deep roots and is not easily transplanted; however, the demand for black walnut seedlings is high enough that nurseries do produce seedlings available to the public, mostly in bare root form.

The state champion black walnut in Bowie County (Northeast Texas) is 56 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall with 177 feet of spread. Extremely large black walnut are possible in North Central Texas as one Dallas County specimen is 65 feet tall with a 69 foot spread. However, most individuals could be expected to reach 40 feet in height and 30-45 feet in width. Trees mature quickly and nut production can begin as early as 6 years, although large crops are not likely until trees are around 20 years old.

Texas Persimmon Tree

Texas Persimmon Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:

 

Texas Persimmon

 

(Diospyros texana)

Texas persimmon in winter

Texas persimmon in winter

By David Coke and Gene Gehring

The Texas persimmon (aka Mexican persimmon, black persimmon, or Chapote Negro) is not to be confused with common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) which has larger fruit, a single stem, and is taller with rougher bark. Texas persimmon looks more like crapemyrtle when older, and is usually multi-stemmed with smooth bark.

 

This tree’s range is primarily in the southern half of Texas and into Mexico, particularly southwest of the Colorado River. Its native range does not extend into the upper Gulf Coast, north Texas, or far west Texas. It likes dry, rocky areas and doesn’t like “wet feet”. Planting in a yard that gets regular watering can make for an unhappy Texas Persimmon; however, this native understory tree is able to withstand some shading from larger canopy trees. Texas persimmon has been successfully planted in North Texas and can live 30 to 50 years when conditions are right.

 

It can grow to 35 ft, but is typically about 10 ft high. It has a rounded crown and a smooth, gray bark. As the tree ages, the bark will start to peel away from the trunk and reveal lighter colors underneath. It is a deciduous tree but can be evergreen in its southern areas. It has 1” to 2” oval to oblong leaves which are leathery, fuzzy underneath, and curled over on the edges. They are dioecious (separate male and female plants) and since the species is not common in the area, both sexes would need to be planted to produce fruit. They flower starting in March or April and have small white flowers. That is followed by a small, black fruit which is about ¾” and is edible when ripe. It has lots of little seeds though making that difficult. The fruit it typically ripe in August. It is also used to make a black hair dye or dying leather. Be careful, it can stain the skin black as well. The fruit is enjoyed by a wide range of birds and mammals. Its tough, dark heart wood was used for tool handles.

 

The national and state champion Texas persimmon tree is located in Ulvalde County. That individual is 26 ft tall, has a 22 in diameter, and shades an area 31 ft across.

Anacacho Orchid Tree

Anacacho Orchid Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:  Anacacho Orchid Tree (Bauhinia lunarioides)

The Anacacho Orchid Tree is a unique tree not seen often in the North Texas area. It is a small tree in the Fabaceae family which grows to approximately 15 feet tall. It is reportedly native to only a few canyons in western central Texas and in adjacent northeastern Mexico. It generally grows in a bush form but can be trained into a single-trunk tree. The leaves are bi-lobed almost like a small split Red Bud leaf or a cow hoof shape. The one pictured blooms bright white clusters of flowers in the spring and then forms flattened seed pods much like a Red Bud tree. There is also a Mexican Bauhinia that blooms light pink clusters of flowers.

The Anacacho Orchid Tree can grow in full sun or as an understory specimen. It is very drought tolerant, requires good drainage, and will tolerate different soil types other than the typical limestone soils of where it is native. North of Austin it will freeze during heavy winters but since it grows so rapidly it forms a new tree in less than a growing season.

If you might like to try growing an Anacacho Orchid Tree it is best that it be planted on the south side of your home or where it is shielded from the north and west winter weather.