Butternut trees vanish in Iowa forests


A butternut tree. Photo by Bruce Marlins, Flickr

Another tree is vanishing from Iowa’s landscape.

Since 1990, some 94 percent of the state’s 1.4 million butternut trees have been wiped away by butternut canker, an untreatable disease caused by a fungus, according to a DNR release.

Thus fungus, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum, is spread by rain splash, wind and insects. It produces thick, black columns that blisters bark and splits it open.

Officials have focused conservation efforts on finding and protecting the remaining trees.

Butternut, sometimes called white walnut in Iowa, is native to the eastern half of the state. The soft, easy to shape nature of its wood has made the tree valuable for its use in cabinets, flooring and furniture. Additionally, people and many forest species seek butternut seeds to eat, and the tree’s loss may reduce wildlife diversity.

The butternut is just one tree species disappearing from Iowa. The emerald ash borer, an unstoppable pest, is wiping out all of the state’s ash trees.

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