Monday, June 23, 2014

Birds and Black Walnuts


I have a goodly number of berries that are at peak ripeness right now: Mulberries (Morus), Juneberries (Amelanchier) and Cherries (Prunus).  These berries are irresistible to birds and they make the trees jiggle and shake as they jockey around the crown spearing the ripest fruit.

I once visited a restaurant that was landscaped with a half dozen Juneberry trees that were completely loaded with strings of perfectly ripe fruit.  My birds consume the fruit well before it is ripe.  A single ripe fruit is a rarity, much less clusters of them.

Much to the dismay of my daughters, I took advantage of the wait-time to eat a few handfuls of fruit.  It was a rare treat for me.  Juneberries are especially delicious if you completely grind the fruit with your molars.  The seeds have a unique almond taste.

The restaurant was near O'Hare airport.  I am mystified by the lack of birds.  House cats? Toxins? Deliberate control due to the proximity of the airport?  Noise?  How can humans live in a place that is so inhospitable that even sparrows and starlings cannot or will not live there?



Picture from HERE

I saw my first Baltimore Oriole this morning.  Orioles are one of the last migratory birds to arrive in the North.  They are fruit eaters and apparently wait for the first fruits to ripen.  The certainly look like tropical birds!

Nearly all birds feed their young a diet heavy in bugs.  Bugs supply the protein and fats needed by the growing young.  It may be that the only reason Orioles leave the warmer regions is that there is too much competition for the bugs they need to feed their young.

I saw the Oriole as I was walking down my driveway to get the mail.  He/she was flying toward the mulberry tree beside the drive and flared when he saw me.  I got a nice look at his breast.

Black Walnuts

I grafted the last of my Black Walnuts for this year.  Black Walnuts are reliable growers for me.

Mrs ERJ is not as happy with Black Walnuts as I am.  She remembers the first few gardens we had as a married couple.  There was a Black Walnut tree on the neighbor's property.  That tree killed tomato plants.  The angry-making part was that the tomato would thrive when first put in the ground, only to wilt and die shortly before the first tomato ripened.  The broccoli was made of sterner stuff.  They lived but the stunted heads did not taste very good.

My property has a wealth of walnut seedlings.  Some I planted.  Most are naturally occurring.

About 8 years ago I bought some scionwood from a gentleman who was selling on eBay.  He shipped me three varieties of scionwood:  Emma K, Sparrow and Drake.  I had heard of the first two and they are highly rated by many walnut growers.  I had never heard of "Drake".  I was able to coax one graft each of Emma K and Sparrow.  I had many, many takes of Drake.  Consequently, I had an ample supply of Drake scionwood as those grafts grew.

Drake and Sparrow are near the head of the class.  Emma K is back-in-the-pack.  One study, one location.  Data from Reid, Coggeshall and Hunt

As time has gone by more information has been scanned into the internet.  This article not only mentions Drake but mentions it in a favorable light.  Drake produced the most pounds of nut meats per tree of the 21 cultivars  tested in Chetopa, Kansas.  It is reassuring to learn that Drake is not a complete dog.

I still intend to graft more Emma K and Sparrow.  Emma K pollen shed is optimum for pollinating most other walnuts.  Sparrow is a heavy producing walnut that cracks out well and has good resistance to leaf diseases.

Gratuitous Eye Candy

Sparrow is impressive for its thin shell, thin husk, heavy production and overall foliage health.  It is notable that Sparrow is the most "renamed" Black Walnut cultivar.  Whether accidental or intentional, more nurseryman have claimed Sparrow as their own work than any other Black Walnut.

All photos from HERE.

One of the breeding goals that will support increased production of salable nut meats is to reduce the size of the walnut husk.  That will reduce the metabolic resources that are diverted to growing a non-valued-added product.

This graph shows the actual nut volume (meat + shell) divided by the total nut volume (meat + shell + husk) for a few, select cultivars.

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