An Open Letter to My Neighbor’s Walnut Tree

You are toxic both literally and figuratively.

3 min readOct 30, 2022

Dear Neighbor’s Black Walnut Tree,

I consider myself a treehugger. A nature-lover by nature. But I make an exception for you.

There is very little to like about you, giant toxic tree that drops staining brown nuts all over my house.

I’ll admit, you do have some good qualities. Like all the trees in this neighborhood, you’re very old and gnarled, which looks lovely interspersed with our original Victorian homes. And I suppose I could harvest the thousands of supposedly tasty walnuts you so generously sprinkle in my yard, but I’ve yet to figure out how to open them without making a mess. And you’re a very healthy specimen, I’ll give you that. I do appreciate not living next to a dead tree.

But everything else about you? I hate it.

First of all, your branches hang too low. They’re constantly touching the roof of my garage, which means I have to hire a tree trimmer to keep the roof from rotting.

Shouldn’t be my problem, seeing as you’re not my tree, but here we are.

While we’re on the subject, you’re way too close. You’re planted literally ON the lot line, and as you may have noticed, there’s not a lot of land in this area. And because you’re leaning away from the neighbor’s house and toward mine, 90% of all your leaves, sticks, and walnuts land on my side.

Gee, thanks.

Your walnuts, by the way? They stain everything with a filthy brown smear and leave a strange smell that never seems to go away. And they’re so hard, they dent my garage when I run over them with my lawnmower. When I pull out of the driveway first thing in the morning, it’s like driving on a gravel road.

Now for your worst offense: You’re literally toxic trash.

Juglone is a highly toxic chemical compound that I’d never heard of until I moved in next door to you. It’s what gives the walnuts that tenacious staining tendency, weird smell, and worst of all — the ability to kill every other plant in the area.

Juglone is produced exclusively by plants in the walnut family, and is secreted in the highest concentration by mature black walnut trees.

That’s you.

It exists in every part of the plant — the nuts, the leaves, branches, trunk, roots, and a 60+ foot radius from your trunk. That’s my entire back yard.

I happen to enjoy gardening, but thanks to you, that’s not really possible.

MSU Extension warns us of your toxic waste:

“Fortunately, there are a number of vegetables that will tolerate juglone, including lima and snap beans, beets, corn, onions, garlic, leeks, parsnip, carrots, cauliflower, soybeans, parsley, Jerusalem artichoke, melons and squash. Avoid planting vegetables that are sensitive to juglone, such as asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, peas, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes.

What! That’s all the good stuff! Everything tasty and fun to grow dies in your shade. I don’t want to eat beets.

Why don’t you eat beets? They’re almost as gross as you.


Someone who loves all trees except for one

Image by author




I write a lot (shocking, I know) and it's usually about animals, travel, outdoorsy stuff, and of course, writing.