The Janka hardness of butternut wood is 490 pounds-force, one of the softer materials on the scale. Although white oak, Juglans cinerea in Latin, is a common alternative name for butternut, it is not the same as white oak, or Quercas alba, which has a Janka hardness of 1360 pounds-force.
Butternut wood is a relative of the walnut family. It is lighter in color than its closest cousin, black walnut, hence the nickname white walnut or even white oak. Butternuts are sweet, oily and edible, and pioneers gathered them each fall for culinary purposes. The husk of the butternut is also the source of a brown dye that early settlers used for coloring homespun fabric to make clothing, such as overalls.
The Janka hardness factor refers to the amount of force needed to embed a 0.444 inch diameter steel ball into the wood until half of the ball is inserted In the United States, the Janka hardness measurement appears in pounds-force. The difference in Janka hardness determines which kinds of woods serve best as flooring over a lifetime of exposure to weathering, foot traffic, encumbrances and general wear and tear.
A wood's Janka hardness does not necessarily correspond to its widespread use or appropriateness as a flooring material. While butternut floors exist, butternut is also associated with woodwork, particularly the crafting of mantelpieces and carved furniture, as well as sculptural, figure and relief carvings. In a stained form, butternut resembles walnut. Manufacturers also use butternut wood to make crates, boxes, molding and cabinets.