Hickory (Carya sp.)
Hickory trees are some of the finest native trees in our country. Common to the central and eastern states, they have traditionally provided valuable, close-grained wood for furniture, tool handles and superb firewood for smoking meat. The Carya family breaks down into two groups. The true hickories include the Shagbark (Carya ovata), Shellbark (Carya laciniosa), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Pignut (Carya glabra). The other group, the pecan hickories, include Pecan trees, Water hickory, Bitternut, and Nutmeg. In this section we ll talk about the true hickories and leave the pecan group for later in the book.
True hickories are deciduous, and lose their leaves each fall. The Shagbark, Shellbark, and Pignut hickories are sturdy, handsome candidates for yards, streets and parks. The Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata), a slow growing tree which may live as long as 250 years has unusual bark which is gray and hangs loosely in wide strips or plates up to 1 foot long. Another favorite is the Shellbark Hickory that has larger and sweeter nuts and its bark is not so shaggy. The Pigbark produces nuts that are not edible, however it is a somewhat smaller shade tree making it a value in a smaller landscape.