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Carya ovata

Common Name(s):
Shagbark hickory
Native Plants, Trees

The Shagbark Hickory is a deciduous tree that may grow 70 to 80 feet tall. The bark on young trees is scaly.  As the tree ages, narrow, flat plates 1 foot to 3 foot long develop and begin to separate and curve away from the trunk, giving it a shaggy appearance.  The trunk may mature to 2-3 foot in diameter.  

Hickory wood is often used to cure or smoke meats.  It is also an excellent firewood/fuel.  The wood is extremely hard and is used to make a variety of products including tool handles, ladders, gun stocks and furniture.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves:  Fall     Bloom:  Spring     Fruit/Seed/Nut:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  The Shagbark hickory is a host plant for Banded Hairstreak butterfly and many moths.  The nuts are eaten by a variety of wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, and black bears.  It is also moderately resistant to damage done by deer.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Although this tree has no serious insect or disease problems, the hickory bark beetle, pecan weevil, and twig girdler can be a problem.  Trees as large as the Shagbark hickory can produce considerable litter through twig, leaf, and fruit (nut) droppings.

70-90 ft.
Non-showy, monoecious greenish-yellow flowers appear on the Shagbark hickory in April to May, the male flowers in pendulous catkins (3 to 5 " long) and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to edible oval-rounded nuts. Each nut is encased in a moderately thick husk which splits open into four sections when ripe in the fall.
The Shagbark hickory is best grown in humusy, rich, moist, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. This tree needs a very large space to grow. It is difficult to transplant due to its deep taproot. Cross-pollination generally produces a more abundant crop of better quality nuts.
Medium to coarse
Narrow, upright, irregular habit; open branch habit; straight trunk; oblong crown of ascending branches
Sun to partial shade
30-40 ft.
Growth Rate:
The leaf of the Shagbark hickory is a smooth, alternate, medium yellow-green, odd-pinnate, compound leaf, each having 5 finely-toothed, broadly lance-shaped, pointed leaflets. Leaflets range from 3-7" long. They turn yellow to golden brown in the fall.
butterfly, host plant, deciduous, edible nuts, shade tree

NCCES plant id: 1938

Carya ovata Carya ovata
F. D. Richards, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Carya ovata Carya ovata
Rafael Medina , CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Carya ovata Carya ovata
Kevin Faccenda, CC BY - 2.0
Carya ovata Carya ovata
Charles Wohler, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Carya ovata Carya ovata
Dan Mullen, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0