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Juglans regia, Juglans nigra


Common walnut, English or Persian walnut

        The walnut's botanical name, Juglans, is from the Latin for Jupiter's acorn, since walnuts were supposedly eaten by the Greek gods. The walnut's association with Jupiter, the philandering king of the gods, has survived in folk medicine: the green outer shell of the walnut is reputed to increase virility.

         The ancient Romans extracted the brown stain from walnut husks for use as a hair dye, and in the seventeenth century, and until the early part of this century, hair colouring preparations contained walnut extract. In recent years interest in walnut's cosmetic properties has been rekindled, owing to the harsh effects of many chemical hair dyes. Another association between walnuts and the head was put forward by adherents of the Doctrine of Signatures. They maintained that the husk was the same shape as the head  and recommended it for head wounds, while the brain-like edible kernel would `comfort the brain and head mightily'' . Modern herbalists occasionally employ walnut leaves for treating skin problems, but the nuts are no longer used medicinally.

        In the kitchen, walnut oil is particularly good in salad dressings and in the UK, where the nuts rarely ripen, the green fruits are suitable for pickling. A strong infusion of walnut leaves is also said to deter ants. A sign depicting a walnut tree traditionally hung outside a cabinet maker's workshop

         HABITAT The common walnut, Juglans regia is probably native to Iran but extends westwards to the Balkan Mountains and eastwards to China. Introduced and found wild in open woodland in Europe and southern and central England. Widely cultivated in warm climates especially Spain, and common in parks and gardens. The black walnut Juglans nigra is native to the Appalachian Mountains of North America.

         DESCRIPTION The common walnut is a large, attractive deciduous tree with spreading boughs and a wide crown that grows from 23-25m(74-80ft).The massive trunk is covered  in smooth grey to silvery grey slabs of bark with deep fissures. The large, dull green leaves are pinnate in form with approximately seven to nine leaflets and are strongly aromatic. In shape they are ovate with a pointed tip, smooth edges, and prominent mid-rib. In spring to early summer drooping male catkins and inconspicuous female flowers appear. These are followed by globular fruits composed of a green outer casing that envelops the familiar nut with its wrinkled light brown husk. The black walnut has darker, more deeply ridged bark than the common walnut. The pinnate leaves usually have about 15 leaflets and serrated edges.


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