Butternuts are a tree it’s hard not get obsessed with. Their famously rare, tasty, creamy, buttery nut. A nut that I’ve still yet to try, but (annoyingly) consistently read and hear people raving about. Even the Vikings, who were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean to North America, seemed to love it. Old Butternut shells in a Viking encampment in Newfoundland and Labrador – too far north for the Butternut to grow – are proof the Vikings travelled deeper into North America then thought OR engaged in trade with First Nations. Both equally fascinating conclusions.
No nut for me yet because Butternut trees are endangered and headed toward extinction. The Butternut canker has killed a large percentage of their population and scientists now scrambling to create disease resistant hybrids to ensure they don’t vanish completely.
I’ve personally witnessed a number of young Butternuts planted in Ontario cities, only see them quickly killed off by the canker within a couple years of planting.
I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around Southern Ontario cities and forests searching for large Butternuts but only twice have I come across two large and healthy ones. One growing in Kitchener along the banks of the Grand River which was apparently planted in the early 1900s as apart of abandoned arboretum but now is a mostly naturalized forest. Another, surprisingly, growing in someone’s front lawn just behind my apartment in Guelph. The city in their street-tree database had mislabeled it as Butternut’s sibling species, the very similar Black Walnut, but there was no denying those football shaped nuts compared to Black Walnut’s spherical, tennis-ball-looking ones. I got a good “deer in headlights” look from the owner of that house once when I caught them outside once and proceeded to give them waaay too much information about their tree.Continue reading “Endangered Butternut trees naturalized in Vancouver?”