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Shellbark Hickory

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Shellbark Hickory


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The Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa) is a large deciduous lowland tree that is native from New York to Iowa south to Tennessee and Oklahoma. It primarily occurs in the Ohio and upper Mississippi River valleys. It typically grows 60-80’ tall with a narrow rounded crown. Trunks mature to 3-4’ in diameter. This tree features odd-pinnate compound leaves, each leaf having 7 (less frequently 5 or 9) dark green, finely-toothed, broadly lance-shaped, pointed leaflets. Leaflets range from 4-8” long. Leaves turn yellow to golden brown in fall. Non-showy, monoecious greenish yellow flowers appear in April-May, the male flowers in pendulous catkins (to 4-8” long) and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to edible egg-shaped nuts. Each nut is encased in a very thick husk which splits open in four sections when ripe in fall. Nuts are attractive to a variety of wildlife. This tree is sometimes also commonly called King Nut Hickory in reference to the fact that Shellbark nuts are the largest in size of the hickories. Best grown in humusy, rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. This tree needs a very large space within which to grow. In the wild, it grows in areas that are periodically flooded. It is difficult to transplant because of its deep taproot. Cross-pollination generally produces a more abundant crop of better quality nuts.


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