Shagbark Hickory
Carya ovata (Mill.) K. Koch.

Shagbark Hickory: Full Size

Also known as Scalybark Hickory or Shellbark Hickory.

Mature Size: Commonly 60 to 80 feet in height and 1 to 2½ feet in diameter; may exceed 120 feet in height.

Form: Tall, straight trunk with an open round or oblong crown.

Habitat: Thrives on rich, damp soil along streams and on moist hillsides.


Shagbark Hickory: Leaves

Alternate, pinnately compound, 8 to 14 inches long with 5 (rarely 7) leaflets that are tapered, oval, smooth and finely-toothed; end leaflet is largest.


Males in yellow-green 2 to 3 inch catkins, hanging in 3's; females very short, in clusters at the end of branches.


Shagbark Hickory: Fruit

Nearly round, 1½ to 2 inches, with a very thick 4-parted husk which splits to its base when ripe; nut thin-shelled, 4-ribbed and sweet.


Shagbark Hickory: Bark

Light gray, separating into thick plates a foot or more long, which curl outward at both ends. Older trees develop a distinctive shaggy trunk.


Thick and usually smooth, but may be somewhat fuzzy near end bud; numerous light-colored pores; leaf scars raised, 3-lobed to semicircular, like a "monkey face;" end bud large, brown, covered with 3 to 4 fuzzy brown scales.

Values and Uses

The wood is heavy, hard, tough and very strong; in fact, no other commercial species is equal to it in combined strength, toughness, hardness and stiffness. It is used for tool handles, furniture, flooring, sporting equipment, charcoal and fuelwood. The nuts are eaten by a wide variety of wildlife: squirrels, chipmunks, black bears, foxes, rabbits, mice, mallards, wood ducks, bobwhites and wild turkey.

Did You Know?

The nuts were a staple food of many early Native Americans.