CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Now is a great time to send butternut tree seeds to the state
|MDC Forestry Resource Technician Ed Hovis |
shows the leaves of a butternut tree along
a creek bed in Wayne County. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
“This tree is declining faster than it can reproduce so with our help in seed collection and replanting, maybe we can get it back on track,” Hovis said.
Hovis said the butternut tree is in trouble, although it’s not yet listed as endangered in Missouri. It was listed as endangered in Canada in 2005 and is of concern to Missouri foresters because of its weakness to butternut canker disease.
“Canker disease is causing a major decline in these trees,” Hovis said.
He said collecting butternut tree seeds is a fun activity for families because it’s a rare tree, which makes it a challenge to find. The fruit is edible and was used by Native Americans for food, fabric dye and medicinal purposes. The attractive wood produced by the tree is preferred by wood workers.
|Butternut trees have alternate,|
compound leaves which help
to identify the species. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
According to the MDC’s Trees of Missouri guide, the butternut tree is a medium-sized tree, growing up to 60 feet tall. It has a short trunk which divides into several ascending limbs that form an irregular or round-topped crown with whitish bark. The tree has alternate, compound leaves. Butternut trees bear edible fruit that has a drooping husk, 1 ½ to 3 inches long, with dense hair. Hovis said butternut trees are found in bottomland areas, mainly along creek and river banks. The seeds are also popular as a food source for wildlife, which can lead to competition when trying to collect it.
“If the critters don’t get them first you can just pick them off the ground,” Hovis said. “Since they grow along stream banks, most of the fruits fall in the water. Out of the five buckets I gathered, four of them were in the water.”
Besides ensuring the prosperity of the butternut tree, there’s also advantage to taking personal responsibility for protecting and caring for nature and our natural resources.
“Just knowing I took a small part in saving these trees is very rewarding,” Hovis said. “I hope through seed collection and seedlings from the nursery the butternut can make a strong come back.”
Hovis said seeds can be collected in a trash bag, boxed up and sent to the George O. White
|Butternut tree seeds can be gathered|
in buckets or trash bags and mailed
to the George O. White State Forest Nursery
in Licking. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
George Clark, the MDC forest nursery supervisor, said it’s important that the seed is sent quickly after it’s gathered.
“Seed can dry out sitting in a garage, house or just sitting on the ground during an extended dry period in the fall,” Clark said.