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Juglans jamaicensis

ListedJanuary 13, 1997
DescriptionA large tropical tree.
HabitatMontane tropical forest.
ThreatsLogging and habitat destruction.
RangeCuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico


Juglans jamaicensis, nogal or West Indian walnut, is a large tree which may reach up to 82 ft (25 m) in height, and whose twigs, buds, and leaf-axes have minute rusty hairs. The leaves are alternate and compound, consisting of from 16-20 mostly paired and nearly stalkless leaflets. Leaflets are thin, nearly hairless except on the veins beneath, and from 5.5-9 in (14-23 cm) long and 0.9-1.6 in (2.2-4 cm) wide. Leaflets are lanceolate, finely toothed, long-pointed and rounded, and unequal at the base. Nogal is monoecious; male and female flowers are borne in different clusters or catkins on the same tree. Staminate or male flowers are numerous and in drooping catkins, 3.5-4.3 in (8.8-11 cm) long, borne on the twigs of the previous year. Pistillate or female flowers are several along an axis 1.7-3.5 in (4.4-8.8 cm) long, borne at the ends of the shoots of the season. Individual male flowers are composed of a six-lobed calyx and many stamens. Female flowers are about 0.2 in (5 mm) long, composed of a four-toothed scale opening at one side and four sepals. The fruit of the tree, a drupe, is a walnut which is composed of a blackish husk; a brown rough-ridged hard shell from 0.6-1.1 in (1.6-2.75 cm) wide, and one large, oily, and edible seed.


J. jamaicensis occurs in montane tropical forests.


Juglans jamaicensis is known from Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, but little information is currently available on its status in the first two countries. It has been described by the Center for Plant Conservation in 1992 as "not common" and by Proctor the same year as becoming increasingly rare on these two islands.

Nogal was first collected in Puerto Rico around 1865 by Augustin Stahl from an area between Penuelas and Adjuntas at an elevation of approximately 2,297 ft (700 m) The species was subsequently collected by the German botanist Paul Sintenis in 1886 from Saltillo near Adjuntas and again in 1887 from Santa Rosa near Utuado. Bartolome Barcela made an additional collection in 1915 from an area near Adjuntas. Nogal became so scarce that it was considered possibly extinct by the early 1970s.

The species was not reported again until 1974, when it was rediscovered at an elevation of 3,510 ft (1000 m) on the upper north slopes of Cerro La Silla de Calderon, an area located near the southwest corner of the municipality of Adjuntas. A survey of these trees was made in 1992 by the U.S. Forest Service. A total of 14 individuals were documented, the largest of which was more than 66 feet in height. The species has been reported from montane forests at elevations between 2,297 and 3,281 ft (700 and 1000 m).

Juglans jamaicensis may have been more widespread in Puerto Rico in the past, but much of the forested areas in the central mountain region were cut for the planting of coffee. The species, possibly never a common one, may also have been cut for the use of its valuable wood.


The best available information on the status of Juglans jamaicensis in Cuba and Hispaniola indicates that it is, at best, quite rare on both islands. This species is known today in Puerto Rico from only 14 individuals located near the Monte Guilarte Commonwealth Forest on privately owned land, with surrounding areas currently planted in coffee.

Deforestation for rural and agricultural development is an imminent threat to the survival of the Juglans jamaicensis. The expansion of the coffee plantation threatens these trees, particularly because the tendency to plant "sun coffee" is increasing, and in such plantations all shade trees are eliminated. Development for housing may threaten the species as well, as it is located in a rural area where land clearing for residences could easily occur. The wood of this tree is also reputed to be of excellent quality; highly prized, these trees have been reportedly felled in the past for timber. The risk of extinction is extremely high for Juglans jamaicensis because so few individuals are known to occur in a highly limited area. Vandalism and any manner of collection could seriously affect the survival of the species. Catastrophic natural events, such as the passing of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, could dramatically affect forest species composition and structure, felling large trees and creating substantial canopy gap. Habitat alteration by a natural weather could eliminate Juglans jamaicensis.

Conservation and Recovery

The nogal is now a rare species throughout its range. In Puerto Rico, only 14 individuals survive on privately owned land, in a forest remnant near the Monte Guilarte Commonwealth Forest. The surrounding area is developed as coffee plantations. The tiny surviving population of the nogal is at great risk from development and other threatening activities. Its critical habitat should be acquired and designated an ecological reserve, or conservation easements negotiated with the private landowners. The population of the nogal should be monitored, and research undertaken into its biology and habitat needs. It should be propagated in captivity, with the aim of preserving its germplasm, and of providing stock for out-planting to supplement the tiny wild population or to establish new ones in suitable habitat.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Boquerón Field Office
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622-0491
Telephone: (787) 851-7297
Fax: (787) 851-7446


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 13 January 1997. "Determination of Endangered Status for Juglans jamaicensis." Federal Register 62 (8): 1691-1694.