Carya Species, Shagbark Hickory, Shellbark Hickory, Upland 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
View this plant in a garden


Edible Fruits and Nuts


Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun




Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone



Bloom Color:

Chartreuse (yellow-green)


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

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

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Frankfort, Illinois

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Lake Forest, Illinois

Tunnel Hill, Illinois

Muncie, Indiana

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Ely, Iowa

Mount Vernon, Iowa

Benton, Kentucky

Bowling Green, 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

Guysville, Ohio

Bath, Pennsylvania

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Glenshaw, Pennsylvania

New Tripoli, Pennsylvania

Tidioute, Pennsylvania

Dickson, Tennessee

San Antonio, Texas

Wytheville, Virginia

Elmwood, Wisconsin

Kewaskum, Wisconsin

Mc Farland, Wisconsin

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Gardeners' Notes:


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.


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... read more


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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... read more


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.