Black walnut quarantined in Haywood

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 06, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Walnut furniture such as this table for sale at Twigs and Leaves in Waynesville, can still be made from walnut trees cut in Haywood.

A Haywood County quarantine on the movement black walnut logs or firewood imposed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should have only a modest impact economically.

Phil Wilson, the agriculture department’s plant pest administrator, said a black walnut tree infested with thousand cankers disease was found in the Cataloochee section of  the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That triggered a county-wide quarantine on movements of the species outside the county unless it is cut and kiln-dried first.

“This marks the first time the disease has been detected in the state, and by placing restrictions on a variety of plant material and wood products, we hope to keep the disease from spreading into other counties,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Something as simple as moving firewood from an infected area to an uninfected county could increase the risk of spreading this disease.”

Thousand cankers disease is a newly recognized disease primarily affecting black walnut trees. It is caused by the Geosmithia morbida fungus, which is spread by the walnut twig beetle. Thousand cankers disease has produced widespread death of black walnuts in many western states during the past decade.

Items under the quarantine restrictions are walnut plants and plant parts including firewood, lumber, logs, stumps, roots, branches, and composted and uncomposted chips. Regulated items cannot be moved outside the county.

Exceptions to the quarantine restrictions include nuts, nut meats, hulls, processed lumber with square edges that is 100 percent bark free and kiln-dried, and finished wood products without bark, such as furniture, instruments and gun stocks.

Black walnut is not a prevalent species in Haywood. The U.S. Forest Service inventory assessment data base, updated in 2011, shows that black walnut trees don’t even warrant its own category such as the pine, oak or hickory groups. Black walnut is part of the “other hardwoods” category of which there is an estimated 21,000 acres in Haywood county, a number that pales in comparison to the 193,000 acres of timber listed in the oak/hickory group. The total acreage in Haywood is 354,342.

The black walnut quarantine applies only to Haywood at this point, but there are several counties in Tennessee neighboring the park that have also been found to have thousand cankers disease.

The biggest threat of spreading the disease, Wilson said, is the movement of beetle-infested firewood since the insects can migrate to other trees in a new area, but wood carvers or crafters who use walnut veneers will also be impacted.

It is not a problem to burn walnut in Haywood County, or to harvest a walnut tree and have it sawed and kiln-dried before sale, he added. The department has worked closely with the N.C. Forestry Association and those in the timber business concerning the black walnut issue.

“We’ve touched base with Haywood County mills and are trying to get the word out through loggers,” Wilson said.

This quarantine actually protects the industry, he said, as buyers might not want to accept any timber from Haywood if there was a concern it might include a product that could infest trees in their area.

Jack Swanner, the the director of logging and transportation for the N.C. Forestry Association, agreed the quarantine would have a minimal impact.

“Walnut in Haywood County is not a big commodity. You do not have large acrages,” he said. “Will it affect someone who sells veneer logs, yes it will, but from 28 years in living in Haywood County and running a sawmill in Jackson, not much walnut leaves the county.”