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Desert Diary


When you think of walnuts, you likely have in mind the large nut meats sold during the cold-season holidays or as inclusions in brownies, fudges, or other goodies. As domesticated crops, these walnuts go back a long way, apparently at least some 9,000 years and quite possibly more. Your store-boughten nuts thus have had a long, long time to become formed into the large, luscious kernels of today.

Our native Chihuahuan Desert walnuts don't have such a history of domestication backing them up, though certainly there has been a long history of human use. We have two species, the Arizona Walnut and the Little Walnut. Both tend to grow along canyon bottomlands having more moisture and protection from the wind than found elsewhere. The fruit of both species is small compared to those of the domesticated species.

From time to time, certain males tend to show off by cracking open walnuts with their bare hands. If this is you, be sure to use the thin-shelled domestic types; you'll find our native walnuts are tough nuts to crack.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Little Walnut (<i>Juglans microcarpa</i>

Little Walnut (Juglans microcarpa). Photograph by Wynn Anderson.



Correll, D. S., and M. C. Johnston. 1970. Manual of the vascular plants of Texas. Texas Research Foundation, Renner, Texas, 1881 pp.