Photos by Josh Schwartz
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
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
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.
Its wood is a valuable energy source. When
burned, one cord of Hickory is energetically
equivalent to about one ton of anthracite
Former president Andrew Jackson’s nickname
“Old Hickory” was a nod to the toughness of
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
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.