Shagbark Hickory


(Carya ovata)



         Leaf                     Bark



Photos by Josh Schwartz


Fruit (Nut)


Family: Juglandaceae


Habitat: Shagbark Hickory is well adapted

to many habitats. It is found in wooded

uplands, swamps, flood plains, and along

stream and river banks. It thrives in a humid



Range: Native to eastern and midwestern

North America. Although not common, it

can also be found in mountainous regions of

eastern Mexico.


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Physical Characteristics: A large

deciduous tree with a straight trunk. Its        

foliage is arranged in an oval shaped crown.


Bark: Smooth and gray when young. It

eventually splits into long strips giving

it a shaggy appearance.


Leaf: Pinnately compound composed of 5

leaflets with finely serrated edges. They

range from 3-7 inches in length and grow

alternately along the branches. Hairs can be

found along the margins but these fall away

with age.


Flower: Inconspicuous green/yellow flowers

bloom in spring. Shagbark Hickory is

monoecious (produces both male and

female flowers). Male catkins about 3-5

inches long droop at the tips of its twigs.

Female flowers occur in short spikes.  


Fruit: Has a thick husk and distinct

grooves at its margins. When mature, the

husk dries and splits open. The nut is edible

and has a sweet taste.



Interesting Facts:

Its wood is a valuable energy source. When

burned, one cord of Hickory is energetically

equivalent to about one ton of anthracite

(hard coal).


Former president Andrew Jackson’s nickname

“Old Hickory” was a nod to the toughness of

hickory wood.


A study found there is a stable, supercooled

fraction within its xylem. This allows the tree

to better endure periods of freezing temperatures.


The nuts contain high concentrations of

serotonin and therefore should not be eaten

when one is providing urine for a 5-

hydroxyindoleacetic acid analysis, as it will

alter the test results for carcinoid tumors.

HIAA is the main breakdown product of



Webpage References:



Additional References:


Feldman, J. M., and Lee, E. M. 1985. Serotonin content of foods:

 effect on urinary excretion of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. The

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 42(4), 639-643.


George, M. F., and Burke, M. J. 1977. Cold hardiness and deep

supercooling in xylem of shagbark hickory. Plant Physiology, 59(2),



Hong, S. G., Sucoff, E., and Lee-Stadelmann, O. Y. 1980. Effect of

freezing deep supercooled water on the viability of ray cells.

Botanical Gazette,141(4), 464-468.