Known scientifically as Juglans cinera, the butternut tree is a type of nut tree native to parts of eastern North America. It can be found growing in forests in this area among a number of other tree species. The nuts of this tree are often harvested in the fall for culinary use.
The butternut tree is actually a type of walnut tree. In fact, it is also sometimes referred to as a white walnut tree, because of the color of its seeds. The seeds, like walnuts, are edible and commonly called nuts.
This tree can be found growing in most eastern parts of the United States. It can grow as far west as Minnesota, and as far south as Alabama and Arkansas. Typically, it will not grow in the southernmost states. This tree can also be found in the southeastern parts of Canada.
Butternut trees usually prefer loose, well drained soil. Like many other types of trees, they also thrive in very fertile soil. These trees can often be found growing in forests next to rivers and streams as well as on rocky slopes.
A butternut tree typically shares its habitat with a variety of other types of trees, especially hardwoods. Basswood, beech, birch, and elm trees are some examples of trees that may be found growing around butternut trees. Also, these trees will often be found in groups, rather than solo.
The bark of a butternut tree is ridged and usually light gray in color. This tree often grows to be quite large, reaching heights of around 60 feet (18.3 meters). It also has a large spread, which can sometimes be more than 50 feet (15.2 meters) across.
It is a deciduous tree, which means that it loses its leaves in the fall. In the spring, however, new leaves begin to emerge. The leaves of the butternut tree are compound leaves, made up of an odd number of leaflets. Between 11 and 19 leaflets, anywhere from 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) long, usually make up one leaf, which can be up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) long. These leaves are typically yellowish green in color.
When a butternut tree is around 20 years old, it will begin producing clusters of butternuts. The husks covering the nuts are usually shaped a little like a lemon, and they can be as long as 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters). During the summer, these are usually covered with sticky green hairs.
The nuts are typically harvested in the fall. Since the husks can stain skin, many people wear gloves during this process. They are then left to dry, and eaten after the husks have dried completely and become brown.