The Q&A Archives: Walnut Trees Toxic To Animals?

Question: My husband and I have recently purchased a home in the country and we have small grove of black walnut trees bordered by some pines and a few various other trees, one may be a poplar. We are thinking of using it as pasture for horses, is the area toxic to animals as well as other plants? Will any grasses suitable for grazing grow under black walnuts. We know that burdocks grows well under them Smiling We are just beginning to learn about black walnuts so we are not sure what we can and can't do with the area.
Would appreciate any advice.

Answer: The roots of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra L.) and Butternut (Juglans cinerea L.) produce a substance known as juglone (5-hydroxy-alphanapthaquinone). Persian (English or Carpathian) walnut trees are sometimes grafted onto black walnut rootstocks. Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, red pine and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees. The toxic zone from a mature tree occurs on average in a 50 to 60 foot radius from the trunk, but can be up to 80 feet. The area affected extends outward each year as a tree enlarges. Young trees two to eight feet high can have a root diameter twice the height of the top of the tree, with susceptible plants dead within the root zone and dying at the margins.

Not all plants are sensitive to juglone. Many trees, vines, shrubs, groundcovers, annuals and perennials will grow in close proximity to a walnut tree. Black walnut has been recommended for pastures on hillsides. Trees hold the soil, prevent erosion and provide shade for cattle. The beneficial effect of black walnut on pastures in encouraging the growth of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) and other grasses appears to be valid as long as there is sufficient sunlight and water.

Horses may be affected by black walnut chips or sawdust when they are used for bedding material. Close association with walnut trees while pollen is being shed (typically in May) also produce allergic symptoms in both horses and humans. The juglone toxin occurs in the leaves, bark and wood of walnut, but these contain lower concentrations than in the roots. Juglone is poorly soluble in water and does not move very far in the soil.

This information is from Ohio State University. If you have additional concerns, you might want to check with your veterinarian.

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