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Black walnut contamination

From: Karen

We are looking at a property that has many black walnut trees. If we cut them down will the land still be dangerous? What steps are necessary to make it safe? How long does the danger last?

Hi Karen! If you are planning to cut down your black walnut trees, I suggest that you do this before you bring your horses onto the property, so that you can safely dispose of the wood and all of the sawdust long before your horses ever set foot on the place. No one is entirely sure of what element in black walnut shavings (or butternut shavings - similarly dangerous) causes laminitis. For a long time, it was thought to be juglone, but that seems not to be the case. It doesn't matter, though, because from a horse-owner's standpoint, what matters is that SOME element is dangerous and should be kept well away from horses.

Trees are less problematic than cut wood and shavings, and some people do keep horses in pastures containing black walnut trees. In those cases, there's usually no danger to the horses during the summer, autumn, and winter. The horses do need to be moved to safer pastures during the spring when black walnut flowers are producing pollen, because it seems that the pollen, too, is dangerous.

As long as you can avoid the tree pollen AND any/all of the ground-up wood (i.e., shavings), your horses may be able to co-exist with your black walnut trees most of the year. You would be wise to fence in any pasture trees, though, because some horses like to chew tree bark... You should ask your vet about the most recent research into the effects of black walnut on horses, and ways to safeguard your horses without losing all of your black walnut trees.

If you decide to get rid of your trees, DO talk with a forester FIRST. You may have a small gold mine there, because black walnut wood is in demand, and usually quite costly. People who steal trees - and yes, there are such people - often target black walnuts because of the considerable profit involved. So don't allow anyone just to cut the trees and haul them away to parts unknown - you may have a very marketable commodity there, and your troublesome trees just might pay for your new barn.


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