Most of our butternuts are dead or dying, stricken by a fungal disease called butternut canker.
When our majestic elms were devastated by Dutch elm disease in the mid twentieth century people took notice. People mourned the passing of these iconic trees.
Other tree species, like butternut, disappear without much notice. Most of our butternuts are dead or dying, stricken by a fungal disease called butternut canker. The disease spreads among the water transport system of the inner bark and then erupts through the bark to create wounds that weep sooty fungal spores.
Butternut occurs throughout the Headwaters but nowhere is it especially abundant. A few locations to look for it include Mansfield Outdoor Centre, Ken Whillans Resource Management Area and Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. Several butternuts grow along the Bruce Trail just north of Grange Sideroad.
Owing to the relative scarcity of butternut in our woodlands, many people are unaware of its presence. It can be identified by the flat topped ridges of its bark.
In the growing season look for large compound leaves made up of 11 to 17 leaflets. The terminal (end) leaflet is the same size of the other leaflets. This distinguishes butternut from the closely related black walnut which has a small or non-existent terminal leaflet.
Also separating butternut from walnut are its oblong nuts. Walnut has nuts that are roughly spherical.
If you have healthy butternuts on your property, or butternuts that continue to grow vigorously despite showing evidence of the canker, the Forest Gene Conservation Association would like to know about them. See the contact information below.
The hope is that canker resistant butternut trees can be found, propagated and distributed to landowners. If this project is successful the butternut can continue its relatively anonymous, but important, contribution to our biodiversity.
Forest Gene Conservation Association
Suite 233, 266 Charlotte St.
Tel.: (705) 755-3284
Fax.: (705) 755-3292
E-mail: [email protected]