Shagbark Hickory

November 11th, 2020

Carya ovata

The shagbark hickory is a large, deciduous tree native to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. It grows well from hardiness zones 4 through 9 and therefore would do well in Chattanooga and environs – zone 7. It is a member of the walnut (Juglandaceae) family and its autumn nuts are edible by many animals (squirrels, deer, mice, etc.) and humans.

physical description

This tree can achieve a height of 100 feet tall with a drip zone that is more than 60 feet in diameter. It produces inconspicuous flowers in the late spring which ultimately produce nuts found in a four-sided husk in late autumn.  Its compound leaves are large – 8 to 14 inches in length with 5 to 7 leaflets.


This species prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun (more than 6 hours daily) to partial sun (4-6 hours daily) in order to develop to its full potential. It can stand short periods of drought but it will not do well. Extended drought periods will kill this tree. It is a slow-growing tree that is naturally found in upland woods, shaded streams and riverbanks, and floodplains.


The shagbark hickory is a perfect tree to plant as a specimen for a large yard.  

This is an attractive shade tree.

interesting information

The shagbark hickory received its name from the shedding bark that peels away in large plates giving the tree an interesting, shaggy look.   

The shagbark hickory produces considerable litter each year due to its dropped bark, the deciduous leaves, and the husks of the nuts.  

This species is propagated quite easily from the collected nuts that are either sown in the early winter or sown in the spring after kept at a temperature of 33o – 40oF in the refrigerator for 30 – 90 days.  

Shagbark hickories are available in the nursery of the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center.

Charlie is a retired professor and Biological Oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia System for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.  

Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!

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Posted by Charlie Belin  | Category: native plants
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