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Carya ovalis

Previously known as:

  • Carya glabra var. odorata
Phonetic Spelling
KAIR-yuh oh-VAL-liss
Description

Sweet Pignut Hickory is a tree in the walnut family native to the central and southeastern U.S.A. In NC it is found primarily in the mountains and Piedmont areas of the state. It is a large tree growing up to 80 feet tall or larger with a deep taproot making it difficult to transplant. The trunk matures at 2-3 feet in circumference and the crown is rounded to oval. The nuts are sweet and sold commercially, maturing in late summer to fall.

Grow this tree in moist fertile well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Use as a shade tree for large spaces or in a woodland setting. It has great wildlife value providing nesting sites and food for birds and small mammals and is a host plant for moths and butterflies. Fruit drop can be messy.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#edible nuts#small mammals#NC native#nighttime garden#larval host plant#deciduous tree#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#moth larvae#insects#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#pollinator garden#woodlands#hickory horndevil moth
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#edible nuts#small mammals#NC native#nighttime garden#larval host plant#deciduous tree#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#moth larvae#insects#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#pollinator garden#woodlands#hickory horndevil moth
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Carya
    Species:
    ovalis
    Family:
    Juglandaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Wood is used for making a variety of items, firewood and smoking meats.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and southeastern U.S.A.
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant attracts birds and is a larval host for butterflies and moths, including the Luna moth. Small mammals will eat the nuts. This plant supports Hickory Horndevil (Citheronia regalis) larvae which have one brood and appear from May to mid-September. Adult Hickory Horndevil moths do not feed.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Edibility:
    Nuts are edible and sold commercially.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 70 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 50 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Oval
    Rounded
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    1-1.5 inches long oval husk that splits into 4 sections revealing a thick shell with a whitish nut inside in late summer to fall.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Male flowers are in drooping yellow-green catkins 2-4 inches long. Female flowers are short red spikes in groups of 2-3 at tips of branches. Blooms late spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate compound leaves are 12 inches long and 8 inches across. There are usually 7 leaflets that are 3-6 inches long and 1-2 inches across. They are elliptic to lanceolate-elliptic with serrated margins. Tips are acute and bases wedge-shaped. They are sessile or nearly so. The leaflets are dark green and shiny while the undersurface is duller and lighter in color. Fall color is yellow to yellow-brown.
  • Bark:
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Shaggy
    Bark Description:
    Young trees have relatively coarse gray bark with irregular furrows and ridges, while the bark of older trees is more shaggy with the strips recurved outward.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, larger than side buds
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Heart or shield shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Twigs light brown and glabrous with scattered white lenticels, branches light gray and smooth, larger branches with shallow furrows.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Predatory Insects
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Problems:
    Messy