Hickory trees are not extremely widespread in Arizona, but there are some native species as well as non-native varieties that can occasionally be found growing in the state.
With their hard wood, edible nuts, and unique shaggy bark, hickories can make an interesting addition to the diverse tree landscape of Arizona.
- Hickory trees are not extremely common in Arizona, but some native and non-native species can be found in the state.
- There are three hickory species native to Arizona: shagbark hickory, shellbark hickory, and bitternut hickory. They grow well in riparian areas.
- Non-native hickories sometimes planted in Arizona landscapes include pecan, mockernut hickory, and pignut hickory.
- Identifying features of hickory trees include compound leaves, shaggy bark, large catkins, hard wood, and oval nuts.
- Hickory trees provide benefits like:
- Valuable lumber for flooring and furniture
- Edible nuts and nut oils
- High-quality firewood
- Habitat and food for wildlife
- Ornamental interest
- Hickory trees can make a great addition to Arizona landscapes and ecosystems where conditions allow them to thrive. Their unique assets and identifying features make hickories stand out.
- Though uncommon, native and non-native hickories can persist in certain parts of Arizona thanks to characteristics like drought tolerance or preferences for riparian areas.
Native Hickory Species Found in Arizona
There are three hickory species that are native to Arizona:
1. Shagbark Hickory
The shagbark hickory is named for its ragged peeling bark that gives the trunk a shaggy look.
It grows up to 100 feet tall and does well near rivers and streams.
The wood is very strong and flexible.
2. Shellbark Hickory
Shellbark hickory has bark that peels off in large vertical plates.
It produces large nuts with thick husks.
Shellbarks can reach over 100 feet tall and prefer moist, fertile soil.
3. Bitternut Hickory
Bitternut hickory is identified by its bright yellow buds and sulfur-yellow nuts.
It can tolerate drier conditions than other hickories.
The wood is known to be hard and durable.
Non-Native Hickories Sometimes Planted in Arizona
These hickory species are not native but are sometimes planted in Arizona landscapes:
Pecan is the most commonly planted hickory due to its tasty nuts.
Southern Arizona is suitable for growing pecan, with popular varieties like Western Schley.
5. Mockernut Hickory
Mockernut produces bitter nuts that are not ideal for human consumption.
However, the wood is very hard and used to make tool handles and furniture.
6. Pignut Hickory
Pignut hickory has a natural range in the eastern U.S. but may potentially grow in cool mountain regions of Arizona.
The wood is highly valued for athletic equipment due to its strength.
Identifying Hickory Trees
Here are some key features to help identify hickories:
- Compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets
- Shaggy peeling bark in mature trees
- Large catkins that emerge in spring
- Hard, dense wood that burns hot and slow
- Oval or oblong nuts, often with thick husks
Benefits of Hickory Trees
Some of the benefits provided by hickory trees include:
- Providing wildlife habitat and food sources
- Producing durable wood used in flooring, furniture, and tool handles
- Burning firewood that generates hot, long-lasting fires
- Producing edible nuts and oils
- Appealing ornamental features like the shaggy bark
- Fast growth for a hardwood tree
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