Juglans regia

The Romans introduced the walnut, as a cultivated nut tree, from Asia Minor to Italy and western Europe generally, and possibly to Britain too. Its name is an Anglo-Saxon one. meaning 'foreign nut,' and the alternative form of "welshnut' with the same meaning. Is still used in the West Country. Most walnuts you see are planted in orchards or gardens, but now and then birds drop nuts along the hedgerows, and self-sown trees spring up in odd places.

In winter the walnut is fairly easily known by its very stout twigs, which bear squat, oval, velvet-surfaced buds alternately at intervals. If in doubt cut a twig on the slant and find the much-divided pith at its heart Walnut bark is grey and resembles that of an ash tree, since it is smooth at first and furrowed later. The compound leaf, too, is like that of ash, but a second glance brings out clear points of difference. Walnut leaves are set alternately, never in opposite pairs; their leaflets are fewer, normally seven, and each is broader and more rounded. Finally, if you crush a walnut leaf you will at once note a rich aromatic odour never found in

Seven Fingers

ash. The juice of the leaves will stain your fingers brown: it was once used as a 'sun tan lotion' by gypsies who wished to look even darker.

Walnut comes into leaf late, about mid-May, and at the same time the male and female catkins open, both on the same twigs. The female catkins are groups of two or three flowers set near branch tips. The drawingin Figure 46 shows a female flower. Male catkins droop downwards, like greenish caterpillars. They are built up of numerous flowers around a central stalk, and each flower has a basal bract two smaller bracteoles. and about four green sepals; within these are set from 10-20 stamens that scatter golden pollen on the wind.

Each female catkin consists of from one to four flowers, shaped like little green flasks. The smooth outer surface of each flower consists of fused bracts, and the tips of four small green sepals can just be seen protruding above it Beyond this come two large, feathery, purple stigmas. After pollination, these flowers ripen

FIGURE 44

Winter twig, showing male catkin buds below, female catkin buds higher up, and leaf and shoot buds at its Up (life size). Lefbashoot bud(X'i).

Flower Gardens Drawing

FIGURE 44

Winter twig, showing male catkin buds below, female catkin buds higher up, and leaf and shoot buds at its Up (life size). Lefbashoot bud(X'i).

rapidly into fruits, and the drawing below shows walnuts at their 'green' stage. Each flower produces a single seed, the familiar walnut with its hard wrinkled shell but this is at first surrounded by a green, fleshy 'husk.' Walnuts gathered at the 'green' stage, before the shell has fully hardened, are used for pickling; later the green husk withers and the brown shell is exposed. Each shell has two sections or 'valves; and the ertibryo plant within it has two wrinkled fleshy seed-leaves or cotyledons. These are the delicious walnut kernels which we like to eat raw or in confectionery.

When a walnut is sown, the seed-leaves remain within the shell, and the first shoot bears normal leaves, having fewer leaflets than usual

Most walnuts stand out in the open, where they grow very

Caterpillar Berry Twig

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Germinating walnut; the seed-leaves regain within the shell (x|). FIGURE 46

Walnut Flowering in May, with leaves just opening and a male catkin near base of twig (Xj).

Above: male flower (X4). Below: female flower (xij).

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Germinating walnut; the seed-leaves regain within the shell (x|). FIGURE 46

Walnut Flowering in May, with leaves just opening and a male catkin near base of twig (Xj).

Above: male flower (X4). Below: female flower (xij).

broadly spreading crowns of lustrous foliage. The timber is a rich greyish brown in colour, but varies gready as it often includes patches of darker brown, black, or paler brown that give it a lively and attractive figure. It is widely used for high-class furniture, in wood carving, for the turning of wooden bowls and platters, and as wooden table-ware generally. Because of its high cost much is used as veneer over less expensive timbers. Really big butts, suitable for cutting of decorative veneers that can be made up into matched patterns, fetch very high prices indeed, and for this reason large old walnut trees have become scarce. Walnut wood is naturally durable, mechanically strong, and very stable; these qualities make it the best of all timbers for gun-stocks.

Walnut Tree Branch

figure 47

Walnuts at the green stage in September, with a leaf and a nut partly split to show brown nutshell and green outer husk (all Xj)

figure 47

Walnuts at the green stage in September, with a leaf and a nut partly split to show brown nutshell and green outer husk (all Xj)

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