Carya ovata

Shagbark Hickory




  • native to Quebec and southwest to Texas
  • zone 4

Habit and Form

  • large deciduous tree
  • up to 80' tall
  • about two-thirds as wide
  • very straight central leader
  • tree is cylindrical with branches ascending and descending
  • coarse texture

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • odd pinnately compound leafs, up to 14" long
  • 5 leaflets, sometimes there are 7
  • each leaflet is 4" to 6" long and about 2" wide
  • elliptical leaf shape with serrated leaf margins
  • leaflets are pubescent when young
  • deep yellow-green leaf color

Autumn Foliage

  • fall color is yellow to golden
  • very attractive


  • catkins
  • not ornamentally important


  • rounded nut
  • 1" to 1.5" in diameter
  • thick shell surrounds nut, splits at base when mature
  • edible with a sweet taste


  • old bark shags into long plates, generally free at the bottom and attached at the center
  • plates are strongly recurved
  • gray brown color


  • prefers deep, well-drained soil
  • has a large taproot, which makes transplanting difficult
  • full sun to partial shade

Landscape Uses

  • for fruit
  • for unique bark
  • naturalized areas
  • for barbecues (hickory smoked meat)


  • fruit can be a litter problem
  • few pest and disease problems

ID Features

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • odd pinnately compound leaf with 5 leaflets
  • edible round nut
  • "shagging" bark
  • leaves have apple aroma when crushed
  • terminal bud is imbricate with a blunt tip, brown
  • terminal bud with 2 to 4 visible pubescent scales


  • by seed


  • none

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.