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Sweet Pignut Carya ovalis

Other Common Name(s):

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#woodland#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
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#edible nuts#small mammals#NC native#nighttime garden#woodland#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
  • 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.
    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
    Predatory Insects
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Problems:
    Messy