Monday, October 13, 2008
CAVEAT JUGLANS NIGRA
I’d like to say a few words about Juglans nigra. We have a black walnut tree right next to the driveway and overhanging the back porch. (I have no idea of its age, older than me and maybe even older than the house. Its height is equally unknown – I should have paid attention in trigonometry.) No one possessed of a brain should ever plant a black walnut tree near a house. It is a menace.
Yes, I know the wood is valuable, the shade is lovely and some people go to the trouble of collecting the walnuts, soaking them for two weeks and then smashing them with a hammer to extract the nutmeat which is then considered edible.
What you need to know that is that falling black walnuts (inside their greenish drupes) are deadly projectiles. They dent car rooftops (see the hood of my car for most recent evidence of such) and cause craters to form in the skulls of small children.
Assuming a black walnut falls unimpeded to the porch, and assuming it rains anytime soon, then a black walnut takes on its vilest incarnation. The drupes soften and reveal a black squishy pulpy mess containing juglone & this stains permanently. If you want to pockmark your porch with random black splotches, you might not find this objectionable, if you did not first sustain a concussion. Our ancestors used it to dye their hair and I am sure it worked wonders. On their scalps as well
On a windy afternoon or evening in the autumn when the breezes rustle the branches and shake loose the walnuts, I stand in my kitchen and continue to be startled and jolted from my sauté-induced reverie, though I should know better. It sounds like Baghdad out there, or Mogadishu, or anyplace where machine guns randomly pepper buildings with bullets, then stop just as randomly, then start again. (It’s more unnerving that way.) So it is with the falling and flying back walnuts.