Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Shagbark Hickory
Carya ovata

Family: Juglandaceae (joo-glan-DAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Carya (KAIR-yuh) (Info)
Species: ovata (oh-VAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Carya ovata var. fraxinifolia
Synonym:Carya ovata var. nuttallii
Synonym:Carya ovata var. pubescens
Synonym:Hicoria alba
Synonym:Hicoria ovata

5 vendors have this plant for sale.

9 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Edible Fruits and Nuts

over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Good Fall Color

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
4.5 or below (very acidic)
4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 36 photos.
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8 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Nov 15, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I would say that this is the most common hickory species of all. A coarse textured, but very handsome tree, mostly found in upland forests of the Midwest and Eastern USA into east Canada. Wonderful exfoliating gray to brown-gray bark. The nuts are rich for wildlife and it supports many insect species that feed off of it some. Good orange fall color. Sensitive to modifying the forest environment from construction or lawn installment, that should not be done in forest. Offered in containers by many native plant nurseries. Slow growing of only 6 to 9"/yr. Long lived of 200 to 300 years.

Positive coriaceous On Mar 7, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

One of our most beautiful large native shade trees, and one of the few in whose shade a garden or lawn can flourish. Glowing golden fall color is early and long-lasting. I find the shaggy gray bark distinctively beautiful.

Straight-trunked with an oval crown, commonly reaching 60-80', rarely to 120'. The wood is strong and valued commercially for many uses.

The nuts are tasty and sweet, if you can beat the squirrels to them. Thick-shelled like black walnuts, falling nuts have been known to dent cars, so plant these trees away from streets and parking areas. The nuts are valuable to birds and wildlife.

This tree is adaptable to a variety of soils and exposures, and suitable for planting over a wide swathe of North America. Yet it's rarely planted, because it's relatively slow-growing, and because seedlings produce a taproot reaching down 2-3' before they get more than a few inches high. The taproot makes transplanting difficult, though 2-3' seedlings are available by mailorder.

It should be planted more often. Not for the impatient.

I know of nowhere where this tree might be weedy or invasive.

Positive Drewwood On Sep 21, 2009, Drewwood from Lake Forest, IL wrote:

The buds of the Shagbark opening are always one of my favorite spring sights. They look like big green tulips with a touch of red.
I have transplanted many Shagbarks with good success.

Positive napdognewfie On Aug 6, 2009, napdognewfie from Cumberland, MD (Zone 6a) wrote:

These trees grow wild in the woods here. I love the tasty nuts but it is hard to get them before the squirrels empty the whole tree.

Positive creekwalker On Oct 9, 2008, creekwalker from Benton County, MO (Zone 5a) wrote:

The Shagbarks nuts are easily cracked with a regular nutcracker. You still have to pick the nut out fairly similar to black walnuts, but it is well worth it. Their taste is awesome. I just used some in an apple salad I had made and it was great!

Neutral smiln32 On Nov 9, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

The nuts, largest of all hickory nuts, are sweet and edible.

The wood is hard, heavy, strong, and very flexible, making it a favored wood for tool handles. It is used in handles for tools and in athletic equipment. The wood also makes excellent firewood, and often is used in smoking meat.

It commonly is found in association with oak trees.

It is a slow-growing long-lived tree, hard to transplant because of its long taproot.

Positive melody On Jul 5, 2004, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

With it's beautiful golden Fall coloration, Shagbark Hickories grace our forests and roadways in this area. Their tall, straight trunks are easy to spot and they make such an impact on the landscape, that I love these trees.

The nuts are great for both wildlife and human consumption and there are many old time recipes that just won't taste right without 'Hikker Nuts' as they are called by the old folk.

The Shagbark Hickory is the most common and can be identified by the 5 leaflets that are on the main leaf stalk. The end leaflets are larger than the ones at the base of the leaflet.

The only similar tree is the Shellbark Hickory, and it is quite rare. The main difference is that Shellbarks have 7 to 9 leaflets on the main leaf.

Positive suncatcheracres On Aug 29, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I am 1/8 American Indian, probably Cherokee Tribe, and am interested in Southeastern Indian cooking. Here's a quote from the famous plant explorer of the Southeast USA, William Bartram, who reported "ancient cultivated fields" of hickory trees growing west of now Augusta, Georgia. There is some debate as to whether Bartram is speaking of shagbark or shellbark hickories due, of course, to botanists changing, and interchanging, names for these trees over time, but the shagbark is more common than the shellbark in the area of Georgia Bartram is writing about in 1792:

"Though these are natives of the forest, yet they thrive better, and are more fruitful, in cultivated plantations, and the fruit is in great estimation with the present generation of Indians . . . The Creeks store up (the nuts) in their towns. I have seen above a hundred bushels of these nuts belonging to one family. They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes."

The Indians also crushed the nuts with the shells in water to make a drink; used the nut oil to bake pancakes; pounded the nuts into flour; and used the nut oil on their hair.

The earliest record of the use of Carya species, which includes pecans, by humans comes from caves in Texas with strata that dates to 6100 BC. The nuts were used in trade, as their use far exceeded their growing range.

I have quite a few hickory trees growing on my property in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b, and some are quite large, approaching 80 feet tall or more, but unfortunately they are either mockernuts (C. tomentosa) or pignuts (C. glabra), not the more edible shagbarks (C. ovata), or the most esteemed shellbarks (C. laciniosa). Also the nuts have some kind of bug, probably weevils, and the squirrels destroy lots of them.

"Mocker" means hammer in Dutch, and a hammer is needed to crack the shell. Pignuts are small and often bitter. Shagbark often has a low yield, but the taste is sweet like pecans. Shellbark is "the lowland counterpart of the shagbark" with larger fruit, and it is considered the best of the hickories. The outer husk of hickory nuts is fleshy and green at first, but eventually dries to a dark brown and splits into sections, revealing a walnut type nut. The nuts keep in their shells for a year or two.

Positive Terry On Aug 28, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

The smooth white seed of Carya ovata is often cited as the sweetest of the Hickory nuts. Like all Carya species, the wood is prized for its durability.

The seventh president of the U.S., Andrew Jackson was dubbed "Old Hickory" because of his toughness. Six Shagbark Hickories were planted by his grave, located at The Hermitage his historic home in Tennessee. During a recent visit, I didn't see the hickories, but over 1,000 trees on the property have been lost in recent years during severe storms.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Frankfort, Illinois
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Lake Forest, Illinois
Tunnel Hill, Illinois
Muncie, Indiana
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Ely, Iowa
Mount Vernon, Iowa
Benton, Kentucky
Cumberland, Maryland
Laurel, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
East Sandwich, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Owosso, Michigan
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Golden, Mississippi
Cole Camp, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Craryville, New York
Dunkirk, New York
Marilla, New York
Raleigh, North Carolina
Glouster, Ohio
Bath, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Glenshaw, Pennsylvania
Tidioute, Pennsylvania
Dickson, Tennessee
San Antonio, Texas
Wytheville, Virginia
Elmwood, Wisconsin
Kewaskum, Wisconsin
Mc Farland, Wisconsin

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