Mariton: Butternut Rebirth

December 6, 2015

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

PRITCHARD 20151021-CRW_0472

Photo by Nathan Pritchard

In October, I met Paul Felton during a walk that I led. Mr. Felton has been a member of Natural Lands Trust since 1967, one of the our longest serving members. Paul was a state forester and is still passionate about trees and forests . One of the species that he champions is the Butternut, or White Walnut (Juglans cinera). Butternuts are handsome trees that produce delicious nuts. Unfortunately, Butternut Canker Disease is quickly killing this species.


Butternut saplings in blow down area.

Soon after the walk I received a bucket of nuts and five established saplings from Mr. Felton. He has a healthy tree and wants to spread the joy. Mariton’s last butternut died a few years back and just recently toppled over.  So, I was thrilled to get Mr. Felton’s gift. Josh and I planted the saplings in one of the blow down areas, and protected them from deer with Tubex.

Butternut Seed Nursery

Butternut Seed Nursery

The seeds were another matter. I needed to protect them from squirrels while they germinated. I started out by cutting several Tubex in thirds and then planted them in our old (deer-proof) garden. After 20 seeds were planted, I still had dozens of seeds in the bucket. I asked Tom Kershner, my colleague at Gwynedd, for ideas. He suggested planters with loose soil so the seedlings could be transplanted easily.  I commandeered several of Maureen’s planters from the basement. Josh planted the remaining seeds, and then wrapped the planters with chicken wire to prevent squirrels from stealing the seeds. We will nurse the seedlings that germinate, and then transplant them to help reestablish this interesting component of Mariton’s forest.