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Similar but less problematic plants:
Carya tomentosa Form
Carya ovata is often confused with:
Carya laciniosa Leaves
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Carya glabra Form
Ulmus alata Ulmus alata
Tilia americana Tilia americana

Carya ovata

Previously known as:

  • Carya ovata var. fraxinifolia
  • Carya ovata var. nuttallii
  • Carya ovata var. pubescens
  • Hicoria alba
  • Hicoria borealis
  • Hicoria ovata
Phonetic Spelling
KAIR-yuh oh-VAY-tuh
Description

The Shagbark Hickory is a large deciduous tree that is native to eastern and central USA and parts of Canada. It is found in NC mainly in the Piedmont area, but sporadically in the mountains and coastal areas. It may grow 70 to 90 feet tall with a 50-70 feet spread. The bark of older trees has a shaggy appearance that provides winter interest in the landscape. The trunk may mature to 2-3 feet in diameter. The nuts produced are valued by wildlife and are sold commercially for humans. The wood has multiple uses including curing meat. It may take 40 years for this tree to produce nuts but it lives for 200-300 years of age.

This tree is adaptable to both sandy and clay loams and prefers fertile, deep, soil that is well-drained. It grows in both full sun and part shade and is drought tolerant once established. The deep taproot makes it difficult to transplant.  Large trees like the shagbark hickory can produce ample litter through dropped leaves and fruit so choose its planting location accordingly. 

Use as a shade tree for a large yard, in a park or naturalized area.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  No serious insect or disease problems. Occasionally the hickory bark beetle, pecan weevil, and twig girdler can be a problem. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Holden'
'Holden'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#nectar plant#winter interest#squirrels#edible nuts#nuts#showy bark#small mammals#food source#NC native#chipmunks#black bears#shaggy#nighttime garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#insects#Coastal FACU#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Holden'
'Holden'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#nectar plant#winter interest#squirrels#edible nuts#nuts#showy bark#small mammals#food source#NC native#chipmunks#black bears#shaggy#nighttime garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#insects#Coastal FACU#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Carya
    Species:
    ovata
    Family:
    Juglandaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used as fuelwood, charcoal, furniture, flooring, tool handles, ladder rungs, dowels, athletic good and gymnasium equipment. Wood is used to cure meats.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    E. Canada to Central & E. U.S.A. and NE. Mexico
    Distribution:
    USA: AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV Canada: ON, QC
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Host plant for Banded Hairstreak butterfly and many moths including the Luna moth.  The nuts are eaten by a variety of wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, and black bears. Moderately resistant to deer.
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Heat, drought, and soil compaction tolerant.
    Edibility:
    Nuts are edible and sweet.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 70 ft. 0 in. - 90 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 50 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Irregular
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    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)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The round fruit is a 4 parted husk that is 1½-2" long and wide. It is green maturing to deep brown. The nut of each fruit is light tan, oval, and somewhat compressed. The meat is edible and sweet. Displays in October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Non-showy, monoecious greenish-yellow flowers appear in May. The male flowers in 3-5 inch pendulous catkins and the female flowers in short spikes.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The compound leaves are 8-14 inches long, alternate, medium yellow-green, odd-pinnate. Each has 5-7 finely-toothed, broadly lance-shaped, pointed leaflets. Leaflets range from 3-7 inches long and 1-3 inches wide. Undersides are pale green and may have a few hairs along the veins. The fall color is yellow to a golden brown.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Shaggy
    Bark Description:
    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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, larger than side buds
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    The twigs are stout, light gray, light brown, or reddish-brown with scattered white lenticels
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Fire
    Problems:
    Messy