Hickory trees are a common sight across the state of Missouri. There are eight hickory species native to Missouri, all of which belong to the walnut family (Juglandaceae).
Hickories can be divided into two groups - the true hickories and the pecan hickories.
This article will provide an overview of the native and non-native hickory tree species found in Missouri.
- There are 8 hickory tree species native to Missouri - 5 true hickories and 3 pecan hickories.
- True hickories have smooth-edged leaves with 5 or fewer leaflets. Pecan hickories have compound leaves with more than 5 leaflets.
- The most common true hickories are mockernut, shagbark, and pignut. Bitternut is the most widespread pecan hickory.
- Pecan is the only hickory commercially grown for its nuts in Missouri. The rest grow wild.
- Hickory wood is valuable and used for products like tool handles and smoking meat.
- In addition to native species, non-native hickories like red and sand hickory can occasionally be found in parts of Missouri.
- Identifying hickory species involves looking at traits like leaf shape, bark, buds, and habitat.
- Hickory trees provide food and habitat for wildlife in Missouri forests and woodlands.
The true hickories are in the Carya section and have smooth edged leaves with 5 or fewer leaflets.
There are five true hickory species native to Missouri:
1. Shagbark Hickory
The shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is named for its distinctive, peeling bark.
It is scattered widely throughout the state, but less common south of the Missouri River.
The shagbark produces the largest nut of the hickory species.
2. Shellbark Hickory
Related to the shagbark, the shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa) has a thicker and harder shell on its nut.
It has a more restricted range in Missouri than the shagbark, generally found north of the Missouri River and absent from the Ozarks.
3. Mockernut Hickory
The mockernut hickory (Carya alba) produces nuts with thick shells and little kernel, earning the name mockernut.
It is the most abundant and widely distributed hickory species north of the Missouri River.
4. Pignut Hickory
There are two pignut hickory species in Missouri - the common pignut (Carya glabra) and Ozark pignut (Carya ozarkensis).
As the names suggest, the Ozark pignut is prevalent south of the Missouri River. Pignuts have bitter tasting nuts.
5. Black Hickory
The black hickory (Carya texana) is rare in Missouri, found only in the southeastern Bootheel region.
It is more common in states to the south like Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
The pecan hickories belong to the Apocarya section and have compound leaves with more than 5 leaflets.
There are three pecan hickory species native to Missouri:
6. Bitternut Hickory
The bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) is named for its bitter tasting nuts.
It has sulphur yellow buds that distinguish it from other pecan hickories.
Bitternut hickories are found scattered statewide.
7. Water Hickory
True to its name, the water hickory (Carya aquatica) is primarily found in low wet areas along streams and swamps.
It has a scattered distribution statewide.
The pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is the only hickory grown commercially for its nuts.
It is native to Missouri but was also brought by settlers from southern states, so some naturalized pecan trees exist.
In addition to the eight native species, there are also several hickory species that have been introduced to Missouri:
9. Red Hickory
The red hickory (Carya ovalis) is native to the eastern United States and is similar in appearance to pignut hickory.
It can occasionally be found in parts of southern and eastern Missouri.
10. Sand Hickory
Native to the southeastern coastal plains, the sand hickory (Carya pallida) is a rare sight in Missouri.
It may be found in the Bootheel region.
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