Shellbark Hickory – Carya laciniosa

Shellbark Hickory – Carya laciniosa
Family Juglandaceae.
Slow growing and
long-lived, grows to 120 feet. Shellbark nuts
are the largest produced by any hickory.

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Shellbark Hickory foliage
shellbark hickory range map
Shellbark hickory is a slow-growing, long-lived tree, hard to transplant because of its long taproot, and subject to insect damage. The nuts, largest of all hickory nuts, are sweet and edible. Wildlife and people harvest most of them; those remaining produce seedling trees readily. The wood is hard, heavy, strong, and very flexible, making it a favored wood for tool handles.
Shellbark hickory is also called shagbark hickory (not to be confused with Carya ovata), bigleaf shagbark hickory, kingnut, big shellbark, bottom shellbark, thick shellbark, and western shellbark, attesting to some of its characteristics [3].

Shellbark hickory grows best on deep, fertile, moist soils. It does not do well in heavy clay soils but grows well on heavy loams or silt loams. Shellbark hickory requires moister situations than do pignut, mockernut, or shagbark hickories (Carya glabra, C. tomentosa, or C. ovata), although it is sometimes found on dry, sandy soils. Specific nutrient requirements are not known, but generally the hickories grow best on neutral or slightly alkaline soils.

Shellbark Hickory
This Shellbark was started from seed 43 years ago.

Shellbark Hickory is essentially a bottom-land species and is often found on river terraces and second bottoms. Land that is subject to shallow inundations for a few weeks early in the growing season is favorable for shellbark. However, the tree will grow on a wide range of topographic and physiographic sites. Shellbark hickory is monoecious, producing flowers from April to June after the leaves appear. The male flowers develop from the axils of leaves of the previous season or from inner scales of the terminal buds at the base of the current growth. The female flowers appear in short spikes or peduncles terminating in shoots of the current year. The pollen is wind disseminated. The fruit ripens from September to November.

Shellbark nuts are the largest produced by any hickory. The number of cleaned seed per kilogram ranges from 55 to 75 (25 to 35/lb). Hickories show embryo dormancy. Shellbark hickory seeds require from 90 to 120 days of cold stratification before they will germinate. The minimum tree age for seed production is about 40 years, with the most seed produced between 75 and 200 years. Thrifty trees may produce 70 to 105 liters (2 to 3 bu) of nuts in a good year, and good crops are produced about every second year [3].

The 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was affectionately known as "Old Hickory," likening the strength and toughness of his agressive personality to hickory wood. Jackson was seen as a great General and  military commander, primarily for his defeat of the British Expeditionary Force at the battle of New Orleans in 1815. He was also a rich slaveowner and an enforcer of the Indian Removal Act, which forced hundreds of thousands of Native Americans to relenquish their lands and decamp to the Indian Territory (now the State of Oklahoma). What a guy.

Shellbark hickory bark
Shellbark bark

Seed is dispersed from September to December by gravity, birds, and animals. Squirrels and other rodents are the principal dispersal agents. Shellbark hickory requires moist soil for good germination and establishment. Germination is hypogeal. Seeds germinate from late April to early June. The seedlings rapidly develop a long taproot, but shoot growth is initially slow. Shellbark hickory seedlings grow faster in height than most of the other hickories

Shellbark hickory nuts are used for food by ducks, quail, wild turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, foxes, raccoons, and white-footed mice. A few plantations of shellbark hickory have been established for nut production, but the nuts are difficult to crack even though the kernel is sweet. The wood is used for furniture, tool handles, sporting goods, veneer, fuelwood, and charcoal [3].

1. Melvin J. Baughman and Carl Vogt Growing Black Walnut  University of Minnesota
2. Rick Callahan, Associated Press July 2004 DNA test catches tree poachers in Indiana
3. USDA Forest Service Silvics Manual vol. 2 Hardwoods, "Shellbark Hickory"
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Family Juglandaceae – Nut Trees – Walnut, Hickory, Butternut, Pecan
The Walnut family is a large group of deciduous, aromatic trees including the commercially important nut-producing trees. The Persian walnut (Juglans regia) is one of the major nut crops of the world.
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