never got a nut #655981 - Ask Extension


never got a nut #655981

Asked June 25, 2020, 1:30 PM EDT

I have 2 English walnut trees that are about 45 years old and have never produced a nut. What do I have to do to help them be productive?

Somerset County Pennsylvania

Expert Response

English walnuts are also called Persian or Carpathian walnuts. (Juglans regia) They are close relatives to our native black walnut. (Juglans nigra)

Do your trees bloom? If they don't have flowers, they can't have nuts. Male flowers are not showy, and look like 4-6" streamers,a quarter to half inch wide and hanging down from the twigs in spring after first foliage has matured. They are usually more near the top of the tree than the lower parts. Female flowers are more difficult to observe as they are small round structures which grow very close to the where the leaves sprout from the branches.

Most cultivars of the English walnut require the presence of a different cultivar to ensure adequate pollination of the female flowers. It is possible that both of your walnut trees are the same cultivar and the timing ot the pollen release by the male flowers is not coinciding with the female flower receptivity to pollen. (This condition is referred to as dichogamy.) To overcome this problem, most commercial walnut orchards plant a row of "pollinator' cultivars to ensure proper pollination. You might consider planting another variety of English walnut to help with pollination.  
Other limiting factors to consistent production are spring and fall frosts, extreme summer heat and fluctuating winter temperatures. The trees are susceptible to sunscald trunk injury. Late spring frosts may kill buds and new shoots.

It is also possible that small nuts are forming on your trees, but not reachig maturity due to squirrels harvesting the "green" nuts.!

I also highly recommend that you get a soil test done to determine if the soil where your walnut trees are growing is deficient in some important nutrient. Here's a link to how to submit a soil test sample to Penn State's soil testing lab:

Here are links to several excellent sources of information about planting and caring for English walnuts:   (See page 8.) › downloads 
Excellent guide to planting, care, and biology of English walnut trees.

I hope that this helps you with your trees!

Barbara Murphy Replied July 13, 2020, 3:39 PM EDT
Thank you. I will get a soil sample. It sounds like I have 2 female trees but I planted a few more about 3 or 4 years ago, now its just a waiting game.
The Question Asker Replied July 14, 2020, 9:50 PM EDT
Walnuts have male and female flowers on the same tree.  The problem with many cultivars is the timing of the flowering so that the male flowers are releasing pollen at the same time that the female flowers on the same tree are receptive.  That's why a different cultivar is needed to ensure proper pollination.

Sex in the plant world can be quite complicated!

Happy gardening!
Barbara Murphy Replied July 15, 2020, 9:51 AM EDT

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