A walnut tree isn’t just a valuable asset due to the nuts it provides; it’s also worth money for its attractive dark wood too. The American Black Walnut is especially sought after for woodworking, and burr walnut for its incredibly beautiful figuring, which is often made into veneer or pieces of premium quality furniture. But how much is a walnut tree worth? Let’s find out!
What You'll Learn Today
What Is The Value Of A Walnut Tree?
Demand for walnut wood continues to increase. The reasons for this are two-fold, demand is outstripping supply which has resulted in the price of walnut reaching ever-increasing heights.
You may well ask why walnut wood is so popular, the reasons are various:
- It is strong and durable
- Hard but not heavy
- Excellent for carving and turning
- Can be bent to create interesting shapes
- Dense and good for resisting shock
- Can be glued or nailed
- Creates a beautiful finish
- Has a fine, relatively straight grain
- Range of colors even within the same piece of wood
What Makes A Walnut Tree Valuable
There are several factors that affect the price you can get for a walnut tree. Firstly, it’s its size; the larger it is, the more it will be worth. This can be both height and diameter.
But then there are other things to take into consideration – the quality of the wood and how it is figured (the patterns within it when cut).
A high-quality tree of approximately 20 inches in diameter might fetch somewhere between $700 to $800 dollars, perhaps even more if it is of exceptional quality. Plus everything is growing in value these days!
This article is only a guide, as value depends on many things, including time of year, the health of the tree, where in the world you are, and what use the wood is wanted for.
The veneer is graded, a method by which its quality is decided. A veneer is a very thin slice of the tree that is used to face wood that is less valuable or not so attractive.
Grading is done with the use of a Biltmore Stick, which in appearance is rather like a yardstick for measuring distance.
Black walnut typically grows from between 50 and 80 feet tall when fully mature, and the diameter of the trunk varies from around 18” to 90”, although the latter is very unusual.
A healthy tree with no disease and a trunk of 18” would fetch around $700, while one with a trunk diameter closer to 25” may fetch closer to $1,200 or $1,400.
The larger the diameter of the tree, the more it is worth, as it can provide a larger number of pieces of usable wood, such as sheets of veneer or planks, and so on.
It is only the first 16 feet of the tree, from the base of the stunk going up towards the canopy, that is tested for quality.
- Clear wood is free of any knots, damage, or blemishes = Grade A
- Wood with no knots, some very minor damage or blemishes = Grade B
- A tree with some small knots = Grade C
- Where knots or damage is more frequent = Grade D
- Lots of knots covering the tree but some areas where there are none = Grade 1
- Many large knots on the tree with a small amount of damage or blemishes = Grade 2
A and B-rated trees are the most valuable, so a trunk with a diameter of 25” that had a B rating may sell for around $800, while one with an A rating of the same size could sell for closer to $1,400 or more.
This is why growing plantations of walnut trees makes sense for people with a lot of suitable land. You’ll need to start out while you’re young though if you’re going to profit, as it takes over 30 years for the trees to fully mature.
Walnut wood can be used for furniture, veneer, guitars, gunstocks, floors, and so on.
Sell Your Nuts
The walnuts themselves have a good value too, and in 2021 they were worth $20 for every 100 lbs of hulled black walnuts.
As a healthy tree is capable of producing around 350 lbs in a year, with just 10 good trees, you’re looking at $70 x 10 = $700 a year.
Lumber is the best way of making money from walnut trees, mainly if it is being sold by the board. Twenty feet of board of 1-inch thickness can fetch between $339 to $350.
In this video, you can learn more about growing genetically improved Walnut trees to produce high-quality wood of considerable value:
What Is The Value Of A Large Walnut Tree?
As we saw above, the thicker and longer the tree, the more money it will be worth, providing the tree has a good quality rating.
Black walnut trees with a girth in excess of 40” can fetch more than $2,000.
Because of this, growing black walnut to sell as lumber is becoming increasingly popular.
Of course, it could also be argued that there is great value in just owning a beautiful black walnut tree that provides excellent shade and is a piece of living art in your yard.
A remarkable story in the New York Times from 30 December 1976 talks of a black walnut tree that went up for sale with 17 others. It was considered by the hardwood industry to be the “most perfect and valuable black walnut tree in the nation”.
The head of Atlantic Veneer Corporation, Hermann Meyer was the winning bidder of “the perfect tree” and valued it at $30,000, having paid $80,000 for all 18 of the trees.
The tree was estimated to be between 180 and 200 years old and had 57 feet before its first limb and was 130 feet in length and 38.4 inches in diameter.
Such trees are exceedingly rare, but who knows what’s lurking in your piece of forest?
How To Tell How Old A Walnut Tree Is
For a walnut tree to grow to its full height and width takes over thirty years. Sadly it’s common for them to be harvested for their lumber long before this, but in reality, having a little more patience could bring you much bigger profits.
However, if the tree becomes damaged, it can be best to cut your losses and cut it for lumber, as it will not achieve the same kind of value unless it has a high-grade rating.
It’s pretty difficult to count the growth rings of your tree if it’s still growing unless you take a core sample, and that isn’t really a practical solution for most people.
A way of estimating how old a walnut tree (or almost any other type of tree) is, is by measuring the circumference of the trunk.
- Using a fabric measuring tape, measure up the tree’s trunk from the ground to 4 ½ feet.
- Now wrap the tape measure around the tree at this point.
- If you are on sloping ground, judge where the midpoint of the slope is at the base of the tree and measure up from there.
- Make a note of the measurement, which is the tree’s circumference.
- Next, subtract one and a half inches from the circumference measurement, as walnut trees have thick furrowed bark, which you don’t want to include in your calculation.
- Convert the calculation of the circumference you now have (less bark) into centimeters if you took all your measurements in inches, as it will make the calculation easier. One inch is 2.54cm. E.g. 10 inches = 25.4cm.
- Walnut trees grow about ½ to ¾ of an inch per year, which converted to centimeters is 1.3cm to 1.9cm, so we will use the middle value of 1.6cm as an average.
- Now you can make your age calculation = Circumference (less bark) in cm divided by 1.6 = The approximate age of your tree.
Walnut trees aren’t only valuable for the nut crops they can produce over a lifetime, they may also have even more worth for their lumber.
As we saw in the story of “the perfect tree” in the New York Times article, really good trees, even back then, had a very significant value as they still do today.
Ideally, you need to grow high-quality trees that will be category A or B and have sufficient age to allow for good height and girth to make real money.
They may take too many years to get to this stage to be profitable for you but may be an ideal investment for your kids or grandkids.