We visited the historical Walney house in Eleanor C. Lawrence park this weekend for a nature walk. The 700 acre Walney property has been farmed from the 18th through early 20th century. The front lawn of the property has at least a dozen Black Walnut trees.
The fruit of the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is the size of a small, green apple. It is somewhat heavy to boot, and since the fruit ripens and falls in October, it can give you a nasty crack on the noggin if you are unwary. The wood is hard, yet easily worked, and therefore much prized.
A number of the boys played with the fruits; I opened one to find the nut inside, and now I have walnut juice stains on my hands that won't come off. I thought that whole "walnut stain" thing was just a color you found at the paint or hardware store.
The extraction of the kernel from the fruit of the Black Walnut is difficult. The shell is covered by a thick husk that exudes a dark, staining, strong-smelling juice. The juice will often be a yellow brown at first, and then rapidly assume a deep black-green color upon exposure to the air. The black walnut’s husks are known to leave durable, hard to remove stains on hands and clothing.Yeah, no kidding.
Black walnut drupes contain juglone (5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone), plumbagin (yellow quinone pigments), and tannin.
The brownish-black dye was used by early settlers to dye hair. Extracts of the outer soft part of the drupe are still used as a natural dye for handicrafts. The tannins present in walnuts act as a mordant aiding the dyeing process; usable as a dark ink or wood stain.