The Persian Walnut, and the Black Walnut and its allies, are important for their attractive timber, which (except in young trees) is hard, dense, tight-grained and polishes to a very smooth finish. The colour ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate colour in the heartwood. When kiln-dried, walnut wood tends toward a dull brown colour, but when air-dried can become a rich purplish-brown. Because of its colour, hardness and grain it is a prized furniture and carving wood. Walnut burls (or 'burrs' in Europe) are commonly used to create bowls and other turned pieces. Veneer sliced from walnut burl is one of the most valuable and highly prized by cabinet makers and prestige car manufacturers. Walnut wood has been the timber of choice for gunmakers for centuries, including the Lee Enfield rifle of the First World War. Today it is used for exclusive sporting guns, by makers such as Purdey of London. The wood of the Butternut and related Asian species is of much lower value, softer, coarser, less strong and heavy, and paler in color.
In North America research has been undertaken mostly on Juglans nigra aiming to improve the quality of planting stock and markets. The Walnut Council is the key body linking growers with scientists. In Europe, various EU-led scientific programs have studied walnut growing for timber (e.g. in the UK).
Walnuts are very attractive trees in parks and large gardens. The Japanese Walnut in particular is grown for its huge leaves, which have a 'tropical' appearance.
Walnuts are not particularly well suited to smaller urban gardens. They drop numerous small twigs, leaves, branches or nuts, so are considered "messy" by some people; the falling nuts in late summer and early autumn can be quite dangerous. Both the fallen leaves and the roots secrete a substance called juglone which kills many popular garden plants, such as tomato, apple and birch; all walnuts produce juglone, but Black Walnut produces larger amounts than other species. Juglone appears to be one of the walnut's primary defence mechanisms against potential competitors for resources (water, nutrients and sunlight), and its effects are felt most strongly inside the tree's "drip line" (the circle around the tree marked by the horizontal distance of its outermost branches). However, even plants at a seemingly great distance outside the drip line can be affected, and juglone can linger in the soil for many years even after a walnut is removed as its roots slowly decompose and release juglone into the soil. In addition, walnuts are a popular snack among woodland creatures, specifically mice.
Walnuts are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. These include: