Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Carya carolinae-septentrionalis (Ashe) Engl. & Graebn. Southern shagbark hickory, Carolina shagbark hickory, Carolina hickory. Synonyms Carya australis Ashe, Carya ovata (P. Mill.) K. Koch var. australis (Ashe) Little, Carya ovata (P. Mill.) K. Koch var. carolinae-septentrionalis (Ashe) Reveal, Hicoria carolinae-septentrionalis Ashe. Family Juglandaceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 501307. USDA PLANTS Symbol CACA38. TROPICOS # 16700061.

Images • Individual leaf 1. • Individual leaf 2. • Branchlet with buds. • Close-up of buds. • Close-up of leaf scar. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3.

Brief Description: A medium to large-sized, deciduous tree, typically ranging from 20–30 m (65–100 ft.) tall when fully grown. Buds vary in size from small to relatively large (usually 2–15 mm long), and are reddish brown, often turning black, with imbricate bud scales. Twigs are relatively slender, the hardened portion of current year growth 1–3 mm wide. Bark of mature trunks is light gray, and shaggy, separating into strips that often curl away from the trunk on both ends. Leaves are alternate, moderately large (usually 20–30 cm long), and pinnately compound, with 5 (occasionally 3 or 7) leaflets. Leaflets are obovate or oblancoleate to oval, ovate or lanceolate in shape, with coarsely to finely serrate margins, often with tufts of hairs on the edge of the teeth, the lower leaflet surface lacking hairs, or with hairs only in the vein axils. Leaves produce a pungent odor when bruised or crushed. Petioles with few or no hairs. Separate male and female inflorescences occur on the same tree, the male flowers in drooping catkins, the female flowers in short, terminal spikes. Fruits are relatively small (2.5–3.5 cm long) nuts enclosed in a thick (4–15 mm) husk that typically splits into four sections.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, monoecious, (5–)20–30(–40) m tall.

Stems. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) black or reddish-brown, glabrous. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars heart-shaped or triangular, bundle scars numerous, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks exfoliating or flaky or furrowed or plated.

Buds. Buds axillary or terminal, black or brown or reddish-brown, (1–)2–15 mm long, oblong or ovoid, blunt, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, compound, once pinnately compound, petiolate, alternate, (10–)20–30 cm long. Leaf upper surface green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green or yellow-green, glabrous or glabrate or with tufts in vein axils. Leaflets petiolulate or nearly sessile or sessile, (3–)5(–7) per leaf, 4–19 cm long, 1–7 cm wide, lanceolate or oblanceloate or obovate or oval or ovate, leaflet margins serrate or serrulate or ciliate, leaflet apices acuminate or acute, leaflet bases attenuate or oblique, leaflet venation pinnate, terminal leaflet present (odd-pinnate). Petioles 4–12 cm long, glabrous or glabrate. Stipules absent.

Flowers. Flowering April or May. Inflorescences axillary or terminal, catkins or spikes, flowers sessile. Flowers unisexual or pistillate or staminate, epigynous. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals 2–4 per flower, persistent. Corolla absent. Androecium. Stamens (3–)4–10(–15) per flower, separate. Gynoecium. Ovaries inferior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium syncarpous, 2 carpels per flower, placentation apical or basal. Other floral features. Hypanthia present.

Fruits. Fruits nuts, 2.5–3.5 cm long, brown or reddish-brown, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or dry-mesic upland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges.

Special Diagnostic Characters. Leaves release a pungent odor when bruised or crushed; fruits with a husk that splits into 4 sections (partially or to the base) when mature, revealing the nut; twigs relatively slender; bark shaggy, separating into strips with ends that tend to curl away from the trunk.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

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