Middle Tennessee nut trees are prized for their valuable hardwood lumber, which is used in fine furniture, building materials, railroad ties and fences. David Lockwood of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service explains that walnut trees grow 40 or 50 years before they are harvested as timber. Black walnut is commercially significant as an edible nut and the most valuable timber in the United States. Pecans, walnuts and filberts are commercial nut crops grown in middle Tennessee.
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English walnuts, grown in middle Tennessee, are cross-pollinated by the wind. Black walnut grows best in moist, well-drained, deep, fertile soil along rivers. Black walnut shells are thick, and they contain bitter black powder. Grafted walnut trees grow faster and produce nuts sooner than those grown from seed. Nuts will not germinate and grow until the trees are exposed to cold moist soil for at least 90 days. Trees are best planted in the fall before a cold moist winter, but walnut trees are susceptible to frost, fluctuating cold, extreme heat and trunk injuries. Frosts kill new buds and shoots. Juglone, a respiratory inhibitor in walnut roots, kills apple trees, vegetable plants and berry bushes. Butternut, heartnut and buartnut trees, similar to black walnuts, produce few nuts, and they crack and shatter.
Hazelnuts, also called filberts, grow best in deep, fertile, well-drained soil along a river. The trees need water, but they die if their roots remain soaked. Trunk injury is common during the winter. Latex paint is used to protect the trunk for the first year of life. Hazelnuts require cross-pollination by the wind from a pollinator within 100 to 200 feet from it. Each hazelnut tree has both male and female parts, and hazelnut trees may pollinate other trees during wind and rain. Hazelnut trees require cool summers and mild winters. They bloom from November to March.
During the 1900s, chestnut trees covered Maine to Georgia with rot-resistant valuable timber and lumber material. Chestnuts were healthy food for wild animals, domestic animals and humans. In 1904, chestnut blight, actually an Asian fungus, destroyed the trees until in 1955, the American chestnut tree was added to the list of endangered species.
Before the blight, almost one fourth of the Appalachian forest was made up of chestnuts trees. The chestnut trees stopped erosion and supported wildlife. People could subsist on them. Chestnuts were a cash crop. Harvested chestnuts are soaked in hot water--about 125 degrees F--for an hour and stored in the refrigerator for up to 8 weeks. Holiday chestnuts were roasted by the fire in Northern cities. Chestnut timber was used to build barns, furniture and fences. Today, may organizations are working to build up the population of chestnut trees in the eastern United States.