Hickory trees are deciduous trees that are known for their hard, dense wood and edible nuts.
There are over a dozen species of hickory native to North America, several of which can be found growing in Nevada.
Hickory trees thrive in temperate climates with moist, well-drained soil.
- The shagbark hickory is the most common native hickory species found in Nevada. It has shaggy, peeling bark and produces sweet, edible nuts.
- The pignut hickory is another native Nevada hickory. It has smooth bark and produces bitter nuts that are not commercially valuable.
- Several non-native hickory species have been introduced to Nevada, including the pecan, black hickory, red hickory, and sand hickory. These are cultivated for their nuts, lumber, or ornamental value.
- Hickory trees thrive in temperate climates with moist, fertile soil. In Nevada, they mainly occur in the northern half of the state in riparian areas and moist bottomlands.
- Hickories are economically important for lumber, tool handles, nuts, and other products derived from their tough yet flexible wood. They also provide food and habitat for wildlife.
Native Hickory Trees in Nevada
1. Shagbark Hickory
The shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is the most common hickory species found in Nevada.
It is named for its distinctive shaggy, peeling bark. As the tree ages, the bark begins to separate and curl away from the trunk in long strips, giving the tree a ragged appearance.
Shagbark hickory is a large tree, typically growing 60-80 feet tall with a spread of 40-50 feet.
The leaves are compound, composed of 5 slender, oval leaflets. Shagbark hickory produces edible nuts with a hard, four-ribbed husk that splits open in the fall.
The sweet, flavorful nuts are enjoyed by wildlife and people alike.
This species is native to eastern and central North America but can be found scattered in woodlands and along streams in northern Nevada.
It thrives in moist bottomlands with rich soil.
2. Pignut Hickory
The pignut hickory (Carya glabra) is a medium sized hickory that can reach 60 feet tall.
It has smooth gray bark that shows shallow fissures and ridges as it ages.
The compound leaves have 5-7 leaflets with a distinctive resinous aroma when crushed.
The fruit is a small, oval nut with a thin husk. While edible, the nuts are not considered commercially valuable like other hickory species.
The common name ‘pignut’ comes from their use as food for free-ranging livestock like pigs.
Pignut hickory is native to central and eastern North America but occurs uncommonly west to Nevada, mostly in the northern half of the state.
It grows on dry ridgetops and hillsides in well-drained soil.
Non-Native Hickories in Nevada
While the shagbark and pignut hickories are native to Nevada, several other hickory species have been introduced to the state.
3. Pecan Hickory
The pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is the most commercially important hickory species due to its large, sweet nuts.
It is native to central and southern North America but cultivated pecan orchards can be found in parts of northern Nevada.
The pecan has smooth gray bark and long, slender leaflets. It can grow over 100 feet tall in ideal conditions.
4. Black Hickory
The black hickory (Carya texana) is native to the southern United States but has been planted as an ornamental shade tree in northern Nevada.
It is a medium to large tree with shaggy dark gray bark.
The leaves have a distinctly sulfur-like scent when crushed. The bitter nuts are not considered commercially valuable.
5. Red Hickory
The red hickory (Carya ovalis) is another southeastern US native that may be encountered in cultivation in Nevada.
It is a large forest tree growing up to 115 feet tall.
The bark is tight with ridged diamond patterns. Red hickory produces small, thin-husked nuts.
The wood is used commercially for products like tool handles and athletic equipment.
6. Sand Hickory
Sand hickory (Carya pallida) is native to the southeastern coastal plains.
It may be grown as an ornamental tree, valued for its attractive shape, dense foliage, and yellow fall color.
The leaves have 7-9 leaflets and the bark takes on an attractive reddish color as it ages. The nuts are small and bitter.
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