Black walnut value remains high in Wisconsin

The state grows five times more than it harvests each year

MADISON, Wis. – The American black walnut (Juglans nigra) continues to bring value to the Lake States, particularly in Wisconsin, where the total black walnut stock reached over 164 million cubic feet in 2019, according to USDA Forest inventory data. Black walnut remains one of the most valuable hardwood tree species in the U.S., and landowners with quality trees are often rewarded with high market prices.

According to Forest Data Network’s pricing information, sawlog averages for one Wisconsin region reached over $3,000 per thousand board feet (MBF) in 2020, up from around $1,400 the year before. The weighted average across the state is about $1,500 per MBF. To see prices in your region of the state, see FDN's pricing reports here.

About 70% of the volume was harvested on private land. On Managed Forest Law (MFL) land, black walnut had a wide range in stumpage value, with one region indicating an average $252 per MBF while another reached $4,600 per MBF. Compared to the stumpage values of last year, most regions showed an increase or remained the same; only one region indicated a decline in value.

The amount of black walnut in Wisconsin has increased substantially in the past 25 years, according to Brian Anderson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s Forest Inventory Analyst. The Lake States make up the northernmost tip of black walnut’s natural range, and over 97% of Wisconsin’s volume was located in the southern region of the state.

In 2019, a volume of over 5 million sawtimber board feet was harvested, a decrease of more than 30% from the volume harvested in 2014. Each year, the state grows about five times more black walnut than what is harvested.

The amount of black walnut forest has expanded ten times compared to the amount in 1983. Since 2004 alone, there has been a nearly 190% increase. According to Anderson, about half of Wisconsin’s black walnut volume is located in a black walnut forest type while the other half is located in various forest types, including upland hardwoods and oak. Despite the high value of black walnut wood, most acres of black walnut forest are naturally-occurring rather than plantations.

Black walnut trees prefer deep, well-drained soils. Their deep, wide spreading root systems allow them to access water and nutrients in shallow soils while also being able to reach water found in deeper soils during times of drought. Black walnut often grows in mixed hardwood forests, but it does not tolerate shade well. Some other tree species are susceptible to black walnut’s juglone, a toxic chemical produced by the tree. In good conditions, trees tend to reach 100-120 feet tall and 30-40 inches in diameter. Some trees do surpass this average in Wisconsin, where trees have been reported to be 130 feet in height and more than 96 inches in diameter. Black walnut has close-grained wood with an attractive dark color and impressive durability, making it highly prized wood for furniture, cabinets, veneers, and gunstocks.

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