7 Reasons To Cut Down Your Walnut Tree (And When To Do It)

Black walnut tree with walnuts

If you have one of those gorgeous, large, otherworldly black walnut trees in your yard, chances are at one point or another you’ve thought about cutting it down. Believe me, you aren’t the only one! We understand, and there are a few good reasons as to why you’re thinking that way.

Here are the best reasons to cut down your black walnut tree: Other plants can’t grow around it, it has surface roots, it requires too much upkeep, branches are too close to your property, to minimize storm damage, or the tree is dying and browning.

Although walnut trees are beautiful, we’ll dig deeper into the reasons you might want to cut down your walnut tree, and just when you should do it. Keep reading to learn more!

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Your Walnut Tree Is Excreting Chemicals

Ripe walnuts growing on a walnut tree

There are many reasons in which you may want to cut down your walnut tree. Although some of them may not apply to you, it is good to know some common ones to understand the effects this tree can have.

If you want to keep a walnut tree maintained, consider using something like this Sun Joe Pull Chain Saw. It’s electric and can give you a bit more of a boost to get those high up branches with ease!

If you still think you may want to cut the tree down, keep on reading!

Also, please keep in mind that we are referencing black walnut trees below, as english walnut trees do not primarily grow in the United States while black walnut trees do!

Juglone In Black Walnut Trees

There’s a scientific reason other plants can’t grow around your black walnut tree. Black walnut trees contain a chemical toxin called juglone.

This chemical is exuded from all parts of the tree. This chemical is not unique to the black walnut tree, and other species that contain juglone are other walnuts, butternut, pecan, and hickories.

However, what is unique to black walnuts is that they contain the highest amount of this chemical compared to other trees.

Juglone is spread throughout the entire tree and deposited into the soil making it inhabitable for certain plants to survive.

You can view our full list of plants not to plant under a black walnut tree here.

There are certain shrubs and herbaceous flowers that can grow under black walnut trees. These includes daffodils, daylilies, ferns, irises, forsythias, yarrow, astilbe, phlox, tulips, hostas, bee balm, rose of Sharon, St. John’s Wort, and barberry.

Certain trees are also tolerant to juglone including maples, eastern red cedar, serviceberry, sweetgum, oaks, and dogwood to name a few. But for trees, the list is quite long.

Moreover, some vegetables and fruits are tolerant to juglone, too! This includes onions, beets, squashes, carrots, beans, corn, cherries, plums, and peaches.

If none of these plants suit your needs and you’re struggling to grow anything in your yard, then you might consider removing your black walnut tree.

If you want to learn more about your black walnut, you can check out our article on the main difference between walnut trees and black walnuts trees here!

Your Black Walnut Tree Has Surface Roots

Surface roots are a real pain in the butt, especially if you have lots of them. If you’ve noticed surface roots for a while stemming from your tree, it could be that your tree has struggled to find the nutrients it needs. 

Surface roots are dangerous to have on your lawn. Your tree is also more susceptible to animals, weather, and damage with showing roots. 

Surface roots aren’t always something that can be removed. And removing them could do more harm than good to the tree. In this case, it might be recommended that the entire tree comes down rather than trying to remove pesky roots. 

If this is the case, we suggest calling tree professionals to check it out and determine the best thing to do.

Your Black Walnut Requires Too Much Upkeep

Eastern black walnut

If you’ve ever been around a black walnut, you know how much of a tripping hazard it can be. The black walnut husks are about the size and color of a tennis ball and fall with force to the ground. Seriously, it sounds like someone is throwing baseballs onto the ground from up in a tree!

Despite their bright green color, these husks are incredibly easy to trip on and can be more of a nuisance than anything. 

When black walnut husks begin to fall, it seems like they never stop! The upkeep of black walnut trees might be more than you bargained for. 

As we mentioned above, because certain plants can’t grow around black walnuts, this could create a barren lawn that you didn’t necessarily want. So between the upkeep and barren ground, you might be considering taking down your tree. 

Your Black Walnut Is Producing Too Much Juglone

Black walnuts produce the chemical juglone, which we briefly touched upon above. Juglone becomes a toxin when pre-juglone from within the tree is oxidized. So when any sort of cut or damage happens to the tree and pre-juglone is exposed, that’s when it becomes oxidized and turns into juglone.

Because it is found in all parts of the tree, consuming too many black walnut leaves or using walnut shavings as bedding can cause issues with animals. 

Now, we don’t think you’re going to be eating black walnut trees or using the pine shavings as bedding! But if you have dogs, horses, goats, etc., you’re probably considering them in this too. Because if you’ve had any animals, you know that they like to get into trouble.

Juglone isn’t just an issue for humans, it’s also an issue for animals and livestock. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, juglone sensitivity in equines is extremely high and can cause laminitis within a few days of exposure when present in bedding.

Some people are more sensitive to juglone than others, which can result in a reaction when near it. If you are concerned about this we recommend contacting tree professionals to give you the rundown about your black walnut tree, juglone, and what to do!

To Minimize Potential Storm Damage From Branches

Storm in the forest at summer day

Is your tree growing too close to your house? Is it in a questionable area? This could be leading you in your decision to cut down your black walnut

If you live in an area where hurricanes are an issue, you may be wanting to cut down your walnut tree too

If you want to cut down your tree because of hurricane winds, don’t! According to North Carolina State University, in category three hurricane winds, most trees are not going to fall. Some trees can prevent more damage by blocking winds.

However, if you see that your tree has some rough spots that look like they could be laden with pests or infections, then cutting down your tree to minimize potential storm damage could be the right move for you.

Additionally, some storms have more significant winds than hurricanes, and if you have a tree that stretches to your home, or is even close to it, well then your best bet might be to cut it down, especially if it’s considered an overly mature tree.

Want to learn more about cutting down your tree? You can check out our general guide on the main reasons to cut down a tree in the front of your house!

Your Black Walnut Tree Is Susceptible To Pathogens

Black walnut trees are susceptible to a complex invasive pest problem called thousand canker disease. This disease needs the walnut twig beetle and a pathogen to take down these massive trees.

The craziest thing is that the walnut twig beetle carries the spores of the tree fungal pathogen Geosmithia morbida, which is responsible for thousand canker disease in black walnut trees according to Clemson University.

So when the walnut twig beetle bores beneath the surface of the bark, they can spread this fungal pathogen!

As a result, cankers form from the surface where the beetle bored into. The combination of the boring beetles and cankers, over time, will end the tree.

Your Black Walnut Tree Is Showing Signs Of Stress

This goes hand in hand with the things we mentioned above. Is your tree looking stressed out? Rough-looking branches, losing leaves, noticeable damage signs? If so, your tree might be stressed out and it might be on its way out anyway.

There are certain things to look for to tell if your tree is stressed out including, canopy dieback, cracking and splitting in the trunk, leaf drop, wilting and brown leaves, and even mushrooms near the base of the tree.

  • Canopy dieback is exactly what it sounds like. This is usually when parts of the tree’s canopy begin dying, losing leaves, and branches die.
  • Cracking and splitting in the trunk is typically an issue. This can be caused by poor wound healing and when weak branches split. If the tree doesn’t heal itself it can indicate a distressed and unstable tree.
  • Leaf drop does not always mean your tree is on its last leg. If your tree is dropping leaves, it could be a result of drought stress or overwatering, however, it can also be due to disease or an infestation.

So if you notice leaf drops accompanied by other things, it’s probably best to contact professional arborists to help determine the root cause.

Additionally, if you notice wilting and brown leaves on your tree it could be a response to heat stress and the sun, but if this is a newly planted tree, it could be in shock.

Either way, your tree is stressed out! You can try watering your tree at least once a week and apply mulch to its base. If these don’t work, then you might have a bigger issue on your hands.

When you see mushrooms growing near the base of your tree, it’s never a good sign. This typically indicates issues with the roots or the trunk. 

It could be anything from root rot, which is exactly what it sounds like, to heart rot, which is where the interior wood of the tree decays, and even the overall rot of the entire tree. 

So, if you see many mushrooms at the base of your tree, we suggest calling tree professionals ASAP!

When To Cut Down Your Walnut Tree

Man cutting tree in forest

Whether you’ve had it up to here with your black walnut tree, or you notice signs of stress, then it might be time to cut your walnut tree down. 

Depending on what’s going on with your tree, that can determine when you’re going to cut it down. If removing your tree is dire (branches too close, tree looks like it will fall, etc) then most likely a tree company will remove it ASAP.

If it’s something that can wait, then the best time to cut down your walnut tree is in the dormant season, which is between late winter and early spring!

That’s A Wrap!

While you may or may not love your black walnut tree, it may be time to cut it down. Let’s recap!

These are the most common reasons people cut down their black walnut tree: 

  • Other plants can’t grow around it
  • Your tree has surface roots
  • It requires too much upkeep
  • It’s a hazard to you
  • To minimize storm damage
  • It’s susceptible to pathogens
  • It’s showing signs of stress.

If you decide to cut down your black walnut tree, depending on the reasoning will vary throughout the year, however, the most typical time to cut it down is during the dormant season.

During the dormant season, your tree has no leaves making it easier to cut and handle.

If your tree needs to come down ASAP, a professional arborist will make the call on when it’s best to cut your tree down.

Thanks for sticking around and learning about why to cut down your walnut tree, and when to do it! Until next time!

References

Cline, Steven, and Dan Neely. “Relationship between juvenile-leaf resistance to anthracnose and the presence of juglone and hydroquinone glucoside in black walnut.” Phytopathology 74, no. 2 (1984): 185-188.

Coder, Kim D. “Seasonal changes of juglone potential in leaves of black walnut (Juglans nigra L.).” Journal of Chemical Ecology 9, no. 8 (1983): 1203-1212.

Ponder, Felix, and Shawky H. Tadros. “Juglone concentration in soil beneath black walnut interplanted with nitrogen-fixing species.” Journal of Chemical Ecology 11, no. 7 (1985): 937-942.

Schmidt, S. K. (1988). Degradation of juglone by soil bacteria. Journal of chemical ecology, 14(7), 1561-1571.

Von Kiparski, G. R., Lee, L. S., & Gillespie, A. R. (2007). Occurrence and fate of the phytotoxin juglone in alley soils under black walnut trees. Journal of Environmental Quality, 36(3), 709-717.

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