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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

(Carya Ovata (MUL) K Koch.)

  Shagbark hickory, often referred to as scaly or shell-bark hickory, thrives best on rich, damp soil and is common along streams and on moist hillsides throughout the state. It usually grows, as a minor component, in association with oaks, other hickories and mixed hardwoods.

The terminal bud is brownish gray and covered with three to four loose-fitting pubescent scales. Shagbark hickory leaves are 8 to 14 inches long with five (rarely seven) leaflets that are tapered, oval, smooth and finely-toothed. The terminal leaflet is largest, being 5 to 7 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. The nut, attached singly or in pairs, is roughly oblong, 1 to 2 1/2 inches long, thin-shelled and is covered with a thick, 4-part husk that splits to the base of the nut when ripe. The meat of the nut is sweet.

Shagbark hickory is named for its light gray bark that separates into thick plates a foot or more long. The plates curl outward at both ends. Older trees develop a distinctive shaggy trunk.

The tree grows on a variety of sites and soils and may reach heights of 120 feet or more. It commonly grows 60 to 80 feet tall, I to 2 1/2 feet in diameter, and usually has good form.

The wood is heavy, hard, tough and very strong. It is used largely in the manufacture of tool handles and furniture. For fuel, the hickories are among the best of our native trees.

Carolina or southern shagbark hickory

(Carya carolinae-septentrionalis (Ashe) Engl. and Graebn.) is very common in the Piedmont and resembles resembles shagbark. It can be distinguished by its slender, hairless, shiny dark brown (almost black) twigs and its similarly colored slender, cylindrical and hairless terminal buds.
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