Why Butternut Recovery?
Butternut trees in Eastern Ontario and across their entire natural range in North America are under attack by the Butternut Canker Disease.This is a deadly fungal disease that has attacked almost all Butternut trees found in Eastern Ontario regardless of their age or size. There is no known cure for the disease but some trees appear to be more tolerant than others, just as some people seem to be more resistant to human illness than others. Butternut is classified as an endangered species under the Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA 2007). It is illegal to harm or kill a Butternut tree without a permit.
Why are Butternuts important to the forests of Eastern Ontario?
The Butternut (Juglans cinerea) is a native tree species that has co-existed as part of the Eastern Ontario forests for thousands of years. It grows across southern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. The presence of Butternut is important for several historical, ecological, economic and medicinal reasons:
- Butternut wood is cherished for fine furnishings, paneling, carving and turning
- Butternut bark, roots, nut oil and husks all have medicinal qualities ranging from arthritis and headache relief to lowering human cholesterol (please seek medical advice before trying)
- Butternut is an important food source for small mammals, birds and humans
- Edible nuts were used by First Nations and settlers for their high oil content and concentration of omega-3 fatty acids; the dried nuts can be stored for years
- Lessons from the Butternut Recovery Strategy can be adapted for another tree species that may become endangered in the future.
Main Features of the Eastern Ontario Butternut Recovery Program:
- Inform landowners about endangered Butternuts and encourage them to maintain their healthy trees
- Find, assess, map and store locations of tolerant Butternut trees in a seed source database
- Collect nuts from tolerant Butternuts in various locations across Eastern Ontario
- Grow seedlings from these nuts every fall at the Ferguson Forest Centre in Kemptville and distribute 2,000 seedlings in small batches to hundreds of landowners across Eastern Ontario to put healthy Butternut on the landscape
- Check survival and health of planted Butternuts via landowner reporting
- Re-assess tolerant trees in the database and forecast seed crops from healthy trees each year
- Collect leaves or buds from tolerant trees to test DNA for hybridization, to grow healthy seedlings for research, and to start a long-term grafting program to save genetic material for future production of healthy seedlings
- Support the long-term grafting program to save genetic material for future production of healthy seedlings
- Make Butternut trees available that meet the requirements for Zone 35 and 36 OMNR compensation permits.
Preliminary Results After Five Years:
- Site visits: 836 sites following 1,025 landowner requests for assessment or information
- Live Butternut trees seen: 14,677
- Dead Butternut trees seen: 2,671
- Healthy tolerant pure Butternut trees in the Database: 452
- Number of Butternut grafts planted in the Butternut Archives: 94
- Number of Butternut seedlings grown and out-planted: 14,605 (on 1,450 different sites)
- Number of tolerant pure Butternut seeds collected since 2010: 54,500
Colleagues in Ontario’s Butternut Recovery Program:
- Forest Gene Conservation Association (Barb Boysen) recommends priorities for recovery work in Ontario as guided by the Recovery Strategy for Butternut in Canada document (2010) and fundraises for and coordinates the grafting and archiving program
- Rideau Valley Conservation Authority supports the grafting program (tree selection, scion collection) and much of the overhead for the Eastern Ontario program
- The Ontario Forest Research Institute of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources provides valuable research assistance in DNA testing, grafting and pest management in the archives
- Hundreds of landowners provide invaluable access to their trees for collection, their land for seedlings, and their volunteer hours for reporting and site visits
- Local partners include Boise Est Woodlot Association, City of Ottawa, Ferguson Forest Centre, Grenville Stewardship Council, Leeds Stewardship Council, Mississippi Valley Conservation, Ministry of Natural Resources Kemptville, Ministry of Natural Resources Renfrew, National Capital Commission, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Woodlot Association, Ottawa Stewardship Council, Raisin Region Conservation Authority, Stormont-Dundas- Glengarry Stewardship Council, South Nation Conservation, University of Guelph (Kemptville Campus)
- Recovery partners in other parts of Ontario including OMNR partnership specialists and Stewardship Councils, and the Humber and Guelph Arboretums share the experience with butternut and assist with seed collection, stock production and grafting and archive management
- Many volunteers besides landowners collectively give hundreds of hours to Butternut Recovery through collecting seeds, out-planting thousands of seedlings each spring, checking survival of those seedlings, supporting recovery and generally caring about Butternuts and their survival in our forests.
- Many volunteers besides landowners collectively give hundreds of hours to Butternut Recovery through collecting seeds, assist with the out-planting, check survival, support the recovery and generally car about Butternuts and their survival in our forests.
- Follow the growth, health and survival of out-planted seedlings and tolerant trees
- Work closely with the national and provincial Butternut Recovery Programs and other recovery efforts across Ontario
- Support and participate in current and new research (such as somatic embryogenesis to grow many new seedlings from a single immature Butternut seed embryo) being developed at the Ontario Forest Research Institute in Sault Ste.Marie, and cryopreservation of Butternut seed at Natural Resources Canada, Atlantic Forestry Centre and the Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian University
- Continue tracking the health of tolerant trees, collecting their seed and planting vigorous seedlings across Eastern Ontario
- Continue working and sharing tolerant Butternut material with our colleagues at the Ontario Forest Research Institute, the Canadian Forest Service- Laurentian Forestry Centre in Quebec City, the USDA Forest Service and the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Centre- Northern Research Station of Purdue University
Butternut Recovery Outlook:
Butternut Recovery is making encouraging progress in Eastern Ontario.
Through the program, we have made hundreds of site visits to assess the health of Butternut trees and created a database of individual Butternut trees showing signs of tolerance. We have collected and planted over 15,000 seeds from healthy trees to grow seedlings for out-planting into various locations and environments across Eastern Ontario. Related activities include scion collection, grafting and planting, assisting landowners as stewards of young Butternuts, species at risk remediation through MNR permits and several promising areas of Butternut research.
The Butternut Recovery story is a mixture of high and low technology working hand in hand to increase our chances of heading off a Butternut disaster in the forests of Eastern Ontario. The various parts of the recovery program are well underway with out-planting of seedlings from tolerant Butternuts across much of the Eastern Ontario region. The health of the young seedlings and their tolerance to the disease will be monitored over the next few years.
An excellent source of Butternut information is Butternut Tree, A Landowner’s Resource Guide which was written by the Butternut Recovery Partners including OMNR Central Ontario Stewardship Coordinators and the Forest Gene Conservation Association with support from the OMNR Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Fund. You can view it here.