Pennsylvania has a diversity of native hickory tree species that grow across the state.
Hickories are valued for their strong, durable wood as well as for their edible nuts.
This article will focus on the five hickory species native to Pennsylvania and provide an overview of where they grow in the state.
- Pennsylvania is home to 5 native hickory tree species: shagbark, shellbark, mockernut, pignut, and bitternut hickory.
- No non-native hickory species are known to grow in Pennsylvania.
- Hickories are valued for their strong, durable wood as well as for their edible nuts that provide food for wildlife.
- Shagbark hickory is named for its loose, peeling bark and grows across the state.
- Shellbark hickory has thick, plating bark that peels off the trunk in sections.
- Mockernut hickory produces small, bitter nuts and grows in upland areas.
- Pignut hickory has smooth, tight bark and produces bitter tasting nuts.
- Bitternut hickory has smooth gray bark and bitter nuts and grows in moist soils.
- Hickory wood has been historically used to make many implements and tools due to its hardness.
- Hickory trees are an important part of Pennsylvania's native forests and landscapes.
1. Shagbark Hickory
The shagbark hickory is native to Pennsylvania and can be found growing in a variety of habitats across the state.
This includes wooded areas, fields, along fencerows and roadsides. The shagbark gets its name from the distinctive, peeling bark that hangs in long, vertical strips from the main trunk.
This gives the tree a shaggy appearance.
Shagbark hickory is a large tree, reaching heights of 70-80 feet at maturity.
The leaves are compound with 5 leaflets. It produces sweet, edible nuts that are enjoyed by wildlife.
The wood is known to be very strong and was historically used to make tools and other implements.
Shagbark hickory grows best in moist soil types and is moderately shade tolerant.
2. Shellbark Hickory
The shellbark hickory is another Pennsylvania native tree. While it is widely distributed across the state, it is nowhere particularly common.
Shellbark hickory can be found growing in rich wooded areas, especially along streams and bottomlands.
True to its name, shellbark hickory has a bark that appears to "shell off" the main trunk in large, thick plates.
The leaves are the largest of any native hickory, with 7-9 leaflets. The nuts are sweet and appreciated by many types of wildlife.
Shellbark hickory is valued for its wood, which is hard and resilient. It can reach mature heights of 100 feet or more.
3. Mockernut Hickory
Mockernut hickory is native to the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania. It grows across the state, commonly in dry upland areas and ridges.
Mockernut hickory is named for its distinctive nuts which have thick husks and small kernels.
The bark is tight and gray and develops shallow furrows with age.
Leaves are pinnate with 7-9 leaflets. Mockernut hickory trees can reach 60-80 feet in height.
The wood is known to be tough and flexible. It has historically been used to make items like tool handles, baskets, and wagon wheels.
4. Pignut Hickory
Pignut hickory is another hickory species native to the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania. It can be found across the state, often on dry, rocky wooded slopes and ridges.
The bark is smooth and gray-brown in color even on mature trees.
Pignut hickory reaches a mature height of around 50-60 feet tall. Its leaves have 5 leaflets. The name comes from its small, bitter tasting nuts.
The nuts are not eaten by people but provide food for wildlife.
Pignut hickory wood is strong and resilient. It has been used for items like tool handles, ladder rungs, and axe handles.
5. Bitternut Hickory
Bitternut hickory is also native to the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania.
It grows across the state, typically in moist soils along streams or bottomlands.
The bark is smooth and gray, even as trees age.
Bitternut hickory is named for its bitter tasting nuts. The leaves have 7-11 leaflets. Mature trees reach 60-80 feet in height.
Bitternut hickory wood is known to be hard and durable, though prone to splitting. The wood has been used commercially for items like furniture, paneling, and veneer.
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