Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What nuts was Little Red caching?

photo by Lloyd Spitalnik
Little Red with his favorite nut

Bill Trankle from Indianapolis, writes [in answer to my question a few days ago]:

Marie, those nuts in Sunday's picture look like black walnuts to me. I have several of those trees around my yard, and the nuts come encased in a green woody cover (when they're fresh; they eventually rot to brown as some in the picture are doing) that the squirrels have to chew through. As you can see in the nut at the upper right, the casing surrounds a typical walnut-looking hard shell that the squirrels will grind through (very loudly!) to get to the meat. I've heard these walnuts aren't very tasty for humans, but I've never tried them myself. A problem I have is that the squirrels will chew through the stems of these nuts to get them to fall so they may collect them and cache them at their leisure--I've nearly been hit multiple times by these bombs, and from the impact they make I'm sure it would be quite a painful experience!

Bill Trankle

PS from Marie:

Bill's right. I've confirmed with the park's tree people that the squirrel has chosen one of the park's most valuable trees, a Black Walnut ,
[Juglans nigra] for its headquarters. According to a tree inventory taken in 1982, there are 23 of these trees in Central Park. This one is west of the Great Lawn.

PPS Bill, I've heard that the nuts are delicious, if you're willing to do all the work to get them.