Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

Carya ovata

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Plant


It’s easy to see how shagbark hickories got their name—their trunks are characterized by long, peeling strips of bark. Some animals, like Indiana bats, make their homes in snug crevices beneath the loose bark. Branches and leaves of shagbarks form oval-shaped crowns in the spring and summer. Hickories are deciduous trees, so when autumn arrives, their leaves turn pale green to yellowish-brown before falling to the ground. The average height of shagbark hickories is between 60 and 80 feet (18 and 24 meters) tall, but they sometimes reach 120 feet (36.5 meters) in height.


Shagbark hickories grow in the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States. Shagbark hickories can tolerate a range of temperatures, but they grow best on moist soils in humid climates. They are not found in pure stands, but instead are usually scattered throughout a forest of oaks, pines, and maples. They are sometimes planted as ornamental shade trees.

Life History

Flowers emerge in mid-spring. Male, pollen-producing flowers are gathered together in green hanging clusters called catkins. Female flowers, which give rise to fruit, form in spikes. Hickories are members of the walnut family, and the fruit of the shagbark hickory is highly prized by both humans and wildlife. The fruit is a nut with a hard outer husk that splits open when ripe. Black bears, foxes, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and a number of birds enjoy the nuts every fall. Shagbark hickories reach maturity and start producing seeds at around 40 years old. The average lifespan is 200 years, but some longer-lived shagbarks can continue to produce seeds until age 300.


Shagbark hickories are stable. Several diseases and pests, including canker rot fungus and hickory bark beetles, attack shagbark hickories. The trees have a number of commercial uses. The wood is excellent for burning, and it’s used to produce flavorful food like hickory-smoked bacon. Hickory lumber is strong and shock-resistant, which makes it a great option for making tool handles, ladder rungs, athletic equipment, furniture, and flooring.

Fun Fact

Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president and Major General during the War of 1812, was nicknamed “Old Hickory” because he was considered to be as tough as a hickory tree.


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Missouri Botanical Garden

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

University of Florida

U.S. Forest Service

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