Shagbark hickory is a large deciduous tree native to eastern North America that can grow over 100 feet tall and live more than 350 years.
With its shaggy, peeling bark, compound leaves, and sweet, edible nuts, the shagbark hickory is a distinctive and valuable tree.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about this iconic American hardwood:
1. Record-Breaking Height
The tallest known shagbark hickory is located in Savage Gulf, Tennessee and measures over 130 feet tall.
Most shagbarks reach mature heights between 60-120 feet.
Their oval-shaped crowns spread 40-70 feet wide when branches and leaves fill out in spring and summer.
2. Distinctive Shaggy Bark
As shagbark hickories mature, the bark starts to separate and curl outward from the trunk in long, vertical strips.
This shaggy peeling gives the tree its common name. The shedding bark allows the tree to flex and withstand high winds.
It also provides nesting and roosting sites for birds and small mammals.
3. Compound Leaves
The leaves are pinnately compound with 5 leaflets. Each leaflet is 3-8 inches long and half as wide, with a serrated edge.
The leaves turn golden yellow in autumn.
Bud scales also distinguish the shagbark - they are yellow with orange edges.
The fruit is a thick-husked nut that splits open at maturity.
Shagbark hickory nuts are prized by both humans and wildlife.
They have a sweet, edible kernel inside the hard shell. Black bears, foxes, rabbits, mice, chipmunks, and birds all harvest the nut crop each fall.
5. Member of the Hickory Family
Shagbarks belong to the Carya genus and the walnut family, Juglandaceae. There are around 17 hickory species native to North America.
Bitternut, pignut, mockernut, and shellbark hickory are other common types.
Pecans are also in the hickory group.
6. Extremely Hardy
Of all the hickories, shagbark is one of the hardiest. It can withstand temperatures from -40° F in winter to 115° F in summer.
This makes it highly adaptable to a wide range of climates and soil conditions across its native range.
7. Strong, Durable Wood
The wood is dense, shock-resistant, and excellent for tool handles that endure heavy impacts.
It also burns long and hot, making it a top choice for firewood.
The distinct aroma of shagbark wood is also prized for smoking meat.
8. Sought-After Lumber
Shagbark hickory is used commercially for furniture, flooring, lumber, and sporting goods.
It is an incredibly strong, stiff wood that machines well.
The heartwood is usually reddish brown while the sapwood is a lighter pale brown.
9. Slow Growing
Shagbarks are slow growing, only adding about a foot of growth per year.
This makes for a finer grain in the strong, durable wood.
It also means shagbark trees are a long-term investment as nut and timber producers.
10. Long Lifespan
Shagbark hickory is a long-lived tree, with life spans over 350 years. Some of the oldest specimens are over 500 years old.
Planting a shagbark hickory can provide generations of offspring with lumber, firewood, and wildlife food.
Its stately form also enhances properties as a landscape tree.
Before You Go
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They always have sales and discounted nursery stock and are well worth your time to check out.
I also have other articles that might interest you. I'll leave links below