Shagbark Hickory

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Shagbark Hickory
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Fagales
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Family: Juglandaceae
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Genus: Carya
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Species: C. ovata
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Binomial name
Carya ovata
(Mill.) K.Koch
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Type Species

The Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is a common hickory in the eastern United States and southeast Canada. It is a large deciduous tree, growing up to 40 m tall, and will live up to 200 years old. Mature Shagbarks are easy to recognize because, as their name implies, they have shaggy bark. This character is however only found on mature trees; young specimens have smooth bark.

The leaves are 30-60 cm long, pinnate, with five (rarely three or seven) leaflets, the terminal three leaflets much larger than the basal pair. The flowers are small wind-pollinated catkins, produced in spring. The fruit is an edible nut, 2.5-4 cm long with a green four-valved cover which splits off at maturity in the fall and a hard, bony shell.

Typical bark

There are two varieties:

  • Carya ovata var. ovata (Northern Shagbark Hickory). Largest leaflets over 20 cm long; nuts 3-4 cm long.
  • Carya ovata var. australis (Southern Shagbark Hickory or Carolina Hickory). Largest leaflets under 20 cm long; nuts 2.5-3 cm long.

Some sources consider Southern Shagbark Hickory as the separate species Carya carolinae-septentrionalis [1] [2]


The nuts are edible with an excellent flavor, and are a popular food among those who know them. The trees bear too seldom for them to be grown commercially. Shagbark Hickory wood is used for smoking meat and for making the bows of Native Americans of the northern area.

Hickory Syrup

The bark of the Shagbark Hickory is also used to flavour a maple syrup style sugar syrup

External links

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