Nuts in Iowa

Chestnut (American, Chinese, Japanese, and hybrids)

The American Chestnut was once the mighty "sequoia of the east" comprising the bulwark of the eastern deciduous forest. However, chestnut blight all but eliminated these majestic trees. Today, Chinese Chestnut is being planted, as well as hybrids of American and Chinese as a food crop and to bring back this wonderful tree.

Listen to INGA member Tom Wahl talk in-depth about the opportunity to grow Chestnuts in Iowa. Click here.

The American Chestnut Foundation has a goal of restoring the American Chestnut tree to our eastern woodlands to benefit the environment, wildlife, and society.

Click here for the AgMRC Chestnut page.

Walnut (Black Walnut, Carpathian Walnut, Butternut, Heartnut and hybrids)

The Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is found in all 99 counties and is one of the best known nut species to grow in Iowa. Longtime INGA member Archi Sparks was instrumental in observing and selecting some of the best black walnut cultivars in the world today.

Listen to INGA member Bill Hanson discuss Black Walnuts.

AgMRC Black Walnut page.

The Carpathian Walnut (Juglans regia>) perhaps better known as the Persian Walnut or English Walnut, is grown throughout the world. It is the walnut most familiar to the general public and does best in drier, warmer environments. Northern varieties are commonly referred to as "Carpathian" owing to a distinct population in the Carpathian Mountains that is more cold hardy than others.

Listen to INGA member Gary Fernald talk briefly about Carpathian Walnuts.

AgMRC English Walnut page.

Butternuts (Juglans cinerea) have a native range encompassing the complete eastern third of Iowa and then bulging into central Iowa as well. They are very hardy but difficult to extract the nutmeat. Butternut Canker is a fungal canker disease that is lethal.

Listen to INGA member Gary Fernald talk briefly about Butternuts.

Purdue Extension has a publication on "Identification of Butternuts and Butternut Hybrids". Click here to read the PDF.

IA DNR work with Butternuts PDF.

Heartnuts (Japanese Walnut) are the mildest and best tasting walnut and are unique in that the nuts look like little hearts. They area great for arts and craft projects and of course taste great. Heartnuts are also resistant to the Butternut Canker leading some to make crosses between Butternuts and Heartnuts called Buartnuts.

Listen to INGA member Tom Wahl on Heartnuts.

Walnut Council - The Walnut Council is a science based organization that encourages research, discussion, and application of knowledge about growing hardwood trees. Click here to view their website:

Pecan (Pecan, Shagbark Hickory, Shellbark Hickory, and hybrids)

Pecans (Carya illinoensis) have a native range, mostly along the Mississippi River, as far north as Bellevue. Northern varieties are needed to produce nuts north of roughly Interstate 80. Pecan trees make good shade trees even if they don't produce a nut.

Listen to INGA member Gary Fernald discuss Pecans.

AgMRC Pecan Page.

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovate) is distinguishable by the "shaggy" bark of the tree that looks like it may fall of the trunk. The small size and internal structure of the shell means that getting the nutmeats out of the shell is difficult, however those that take the time will be rewarded with a sweet syrupy taste. Shagbark is usually found in more upland sites and has a native range that encompasses almost the entire state, excepting a northwest portion roughly corresponding to a triangle of Larchwood to Forest City to Council Bluffs back to Larchwood.

The Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa) produces a much larger and easier cracking nut typically found along rivers and swampier areas corresponding to the moister soil conditions it likes best. Historically, it was only found in a small portion in the southwest part of the state mostly along the Mississippi River. Cultivars can yield excellent flavored and cracking nuts that allow for full halves or quarters.

Hazelnut (American Hazelnut, European Hazelnut, and hybrids)

The American Hazelnut (Corylus Americana) is native throughout Iowa and is resistant or tolerant to the major disease concern Eastern Filber Blight (EFB). Unlike the European Hazelnut that is grown as a tree in Oregon and Washington, the American Hazelnut, native to much of the Midwest, grows as a multi-stemmed bush. More recently work has shifted to hybrid hazelnuts that contain gentic material of the American, Beaked, and European hazelnut to provide resistance to EFB while improving nut characteristics like shell thickness, percent kernel, and size.

Learn about Hybrid Hazelnuts by viewing this video from the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI).

The Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI) is a collaboration of growers and researchers working to devlop a sustainable hazelnut industry in the upper Midwest.

The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is working to develop hybrid hazelnuts into a sustainable crop for much of the United States and Southern Canada. Visit their website here:

AgMRC Hazelnut page:

Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts:

Other Great Resources

Society of Ontario Nut Growers (SONG)

Northern Nut Growers