Butternut Lumber on the Way

Yesterday, when I went home for lunch, I found my drive blocked by a familiar truck. Sure enough, I found my friend, professional logger and tree climber Martin Melville, shimmied up a small butternut (Juglans cinerea) tree in my front yard, just about to crank up the saw. So, with another interesting thing to video, and knowing how nifty Martin is in a tree, I fired up the trusty smartphone and watched him take it down...in about 30 minutes. Amazing.

In the video I say that the tree was killed by the walnut canker disease, which is misleading on my part, because that could be confused with the Thousand Cankers Disease which is wiping out black walnut (Juglans nigra) across the country. The butternut, or white walnut, has been under attack from a different enemy, the butternut canker, and it is that disease to which my tree has succumbed. It suffered the classic symptoms: dieback of lower branches, followed by a canker at the base and then a few others climbing the trunk a few feet apart. This process has been going on for four years now, and it looked like the tree only had this summer, and possibly next, to go.

Martin comments around the 20:00 minute mark about the extent of the disease in the forest, and makes an apt comparison to the chestnut blight. Both are so pervasive now that mature trees of either species are few and far between.

From Wikipedia:
"The most serious disease of Juglans cinerea is butternut decline or butternut canker. In the past the causal organism of this disease was thought to be a fungus, Melanconis juglandis. Now this fungus has been associated with secondary infections and the primary causal organism of the disease has been identified as another species of fungus, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum. The fungus is spread by wide-ranging vectors, so isolation of a tree offers no protection. 
Symptoms of the disease include dying branches and stems. Initially, cankers develop on branches in the lower crown. Spores developing on these dying branches are spread by rainwater to tree stems. Stem cankers develop 1 to 3 years after branches die. Tree tops killed by stem-girdling cankers do not re-sprout. Diseased trees usually die within several years. Completely free-standing trees seem better able to withstand the fungus than those growing in dense stands or forest. In some areas, 90% of the butternut trees have been killed. The disease is reported to have eliminated butternut from North and South Carolina. The disease is also reported to be spreading rapidly in Wisconsin. By contrast, black walnut seems to be resistant to the disease."

I hated to see one of my favorite trees taken down, but with the World of Wood 2015 conference coming up next month, this was a good time to say my goodbyes and call Martin.  Mike Powell here at Penn State is going to saw this and several other neat logs up as a sawing demonstration at the conference, and the lumber will be auctioned off.  It will be nice to see my tree sawn and watch the beautiful lumber appear. I'll have Mike saw at least one one-inch board so I can make specimen samples for our Penn State wood collection, complete with vouchers, leaves, and nuts. That's the real beauty of nature - death of one organism provides bounty for another.

So, if you're a wood worker who has been looking for some nice butternut boards, you know where you can get some the third week of July. Hope to see you here.

P.S. Today is the last day that our conference hotels are holding room blocks. You'll still be able to reserve at the discounted rate after today, if rooms are available, but the hotels aren't guaranteeing availability after today. So, get your room while they're still there!

Tip Amount


Is that bamboo I see behind the Butternut?
Mike Eckley said…
Interesting and informative video and blog entry that serves as an excellent promotional of the specialized tree services that can be acquired through Martin Melville (PSU alum/trained forester/logger/tree climber). Also, a bit ironic that the video portrays the trend we are witnessing across the landscape - with yet another native hardwood tree species falling prey to a foreign disease while an establish non-native 'invader' species, in your case Bamboo is ready to benefit.
Chuck Ray said…
Yes, it's been hammered pretty hard the last two winters, but it still grows out new sprouts pretty aggressively even with more than 80% die-back.

I didn't plant it, it came with the house.
Mike Messina said…
I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of chaps and eye/face protection on Martin. I'm not a logger, nor do I play one on TV, but one slip of that saw and ......

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