Blight-resistant Butternut Seedlings

May 4, 2008

Update:  May 20, 2010

Leeds Stewardship Council Technician Donna O’Connor dropped off a small bundle of butternut seedlings last week, so I looked around among the plantings for spaces to use them as replacements.  Of the resistant seedlings only one had died, so I popped a new one in.  In the larger grove of 100 butternuts planted in 2006 I planted six more, three of the spaces created by navigation errors with the mower.  Another four were dispersed (with cute pink flags) across the youngest walnut field, where spaces were not wanting.

This seems to show that butternuts, if planted in well-drained soil, are healthy and vigorous.  So far.

Update:  July 17, 2008

I see this article has received a number of hits, so I’ll add an update.

All thirty of the seedlings are doing well.  The Roundup application set them back a little, but then they rebounded and are growing well.

The rest of the plantation is first-year walnuts planted from seeds last fall.  They have grown quite well in the wet weather, showing stress only after Roundup applications and  when we had three days without rain on one occasion.  The ceiling may collapse during an August drought, but so far so good.



Leeds County Stewardship Coordinator Martin Streit arrived on Friday morning with thirty seedlings and their paraphernalia. They have become row 16 of the new walnut field. Yesterday I finished the job. Actually planting the trees is nothing compared to the task of writing out the identification tags, fastening them to the little pieces of stainless steel wire, tying the wire to the stakes, sorting and placing the stakes, applying the mulch mats, stapling the mats into the sometimes stony ground, twisting those absurd plastic spirals down over the whole thing, including the hapless seedling which the spiral often dwarfed.

I’ll include a band around the mats as part of the Roundup project for this year, giving the little guys every chance to grow without competition and leaving a large enough footprint that they don’t get mowed in error.

The 30 resistant butternut seedlings have been planted at the
following locations:

WP 169-1
N 44 39.791′
W 76 13.653′

WP 169-6
N 44 39.779′
W 76 13.637′

WP 92-1
N44 39.776′
W76 13.633′


Visits may be arranged by appointment only.


4 Responses to “Blight-resistant Butternut Seedlings”

  1. SImon Brennan Says:

    I have been studying the Butternut tree for some time now. I live in a area 30 miles south of Montreal. The butternut tree’s in this area are diminishing quite rapidly. The blight has killed 80% of the tree’s and many more are dying. I have only found 6 or 7 healthy tree’s. The other problem is that there is little to no new growth. Saplings are just not surviving. Where is it that you planted these tree’s? and what have you done to make them resistant to the blight. Furthermore, how can you be sure that they are blight resistant if they are only at saplings stage?

  2. rodcros Says:


    The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the local Ministry of Natural Resources have collected seed from trees showing resistance to the blight, and they distributed the first crop of seedlings this year to selected sites for further study.

    For more information on seedling availability you may wish to contact the Ferguson Forest Centre in Kemptville, Ontario.

    The map co-ordinates for the new seedlings on our property are in the article above. In general, Forfar (K0G1V0)lies between Kingston and Ottawa, Ontario.

    In truth we can only hope that some of these cultivars will prove resistant to the disease. But you have to give the butternut people credit for trying to save the species.

    I still have about a hundred healthy butternut seedlings from a planting in 2006. Excessive moisture in the soil killed about two dozen of the 135; navigational errors with a mower eliminated a few more, and disease has taken five or six.

    We do have a few healthy, mature butternuts on the property, though we have had to cull many because of the canker. The big problem with propagation is getting to the seeds before the squirrels do, as the trees grow in a high canopy.


  3. Lissa Says:

    I notice this was posted way back in 2008 – has there been an update on the butternut trees since then? I’m driving myself crazy trying to find real butternuts as I’ve never tasted them and want to before it becomes impossible to find them.

    • rodcros Says:


      If you are quick enough to beat the squirrels to the nuts, you should be able to find some to eat for years yet. This spring Leeds Stewardship Tech Donna O’Connor dropped off a dozen seedlings which seem to have some walnut in their family tree. Either these seedlings or their parents were grown from grafts onto Walnut root stock. I don’t know the rights of it but the seedlings don’t look grafted, so it must be a generation back.

      If you are in Ottawa, go to the Arboretum at the Experimental Farm. The Friends of the Experimental Farm will set you up with some nuts. Nice people, though they tend to communicate in Latin.

      I find black walnuts and shagbark hickory nuts more rewarding to eat.

      Best wishes,


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