Everybody knows a walnut tree is worth a thousand dollars or more, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t true as often as landowners might hope. However, walnut trees do produce high-end lumber, and you should work to get the best price, even if your trees aren’t veneer quality. Missouri has an abundance of walnut trees. In fact, we have more than twice as many walnut trees than any other state. If you have walnut trees on your property and are looking to sell them, there are some things you should know before you make that first cut.
Making the Grade
There are two basic levels of wood quality when dealing with black walnut — lumber grade and veneer. There are several lumber-grade trees for every veneer-grade tree. That’s why the veneer trees are worth so much — they are rare. You may be able to determine if your tree is lumber or veneer grade by examining the diameter of the tree, the height of the trunk before there is a limb, and the number of defects on the trunk.
The standard for measuring the diameter of a tree is at 4 1/2 feet above the ground, on the uphill side of the tree. To qualify for Grade A veneer, the tree would need to be at least 19 inches in diameter, or 60 inches in circumference. Although it is possible to sell a tree at this size, it is a wiser financial move to keep the tree until it gains more diameter. For example, a black walnut tree that is Grade A veneer at 19 inches diameter is only going to bring the owner $700–$800. If the owner allows the tree to add another 6 inches of diameter, he or she can easily double that income.
Field or Forest
A black walnut tree grown in a field or pasture is usually similar in value to a nice oak tree grown in the forest. One reason for this is that the
length of clear log (trunk with no limbs or defects) is very important to the value of the tree.
At least 9 feet of clear trunk is required to make the good veneer grades. Many trees grown in open spaces will produce limbs low and in all directions from the trunk. This may look nice for a yard tree, but it decreases the timber value. If the tree forks into more than one