How to Care for Shagbark Hickory Trees

How to Care for Shagbark Hickory Trees

Shagbark hickory trees (Carya ovata) are distinguishable from other trees because of their distinctive bark. Its bark has the same silver-white hue as birch bark, but the bark of the shagbark hickory hangs in long, loose strips, giving the tree a shaggy appearance. It’s not difficult to take care of these strong, drought-resistant indigenous trees. Continue reading for more information about the shagbark hickory tree.

Trees with shagbark hickory bark are native to the eastern and midwestern regions of the United States, where they are often found in mixed woods with other trees such as oaks and pines. They are slow-growing colossi that may reach mature heights of more than 100 feet (30.5 m.).

Benefits of the Shagbark Hickory Trees

Shagbark hickory tree information indicates that these trees survive for a very long time. They are considered mature when they reach the age of 40 years, although some trees that are more than 300 years old are still producing fruits containing seeds.

Benefits of Shagbark Hickory Trees

Although this tree is related to the walnut, its fruit is both edible and delectably tasty. This plant is consumed by both people and animals alike, and is particularly popular with woodpeckers, bluejays, squirrels, chipmunks, a raccoon, a turkey, a grosbeak, and nuthatch. The nut within is revealed when the outer shell splits apart.

Hickories are noteworthy specimen trees because of their distinctive shagbark hickory bark and tasty nuts, which make them attractive as specimens. As a result of their modest growth rate, they are seldom employed for landscaping purposes.

What exactly is the purpose of shagbark trees? You may wonder. They are most often used because of the strength of their wood. Strong, robust, and flexible, the wood of the shagbark hickory is highly sought for its use in furniture. It is used for shovel handles, sporting equipment, and firewood, among other things. As firewood, it imparts a delectable taste to smoked meats and poultry.

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Steps for Planting the Shagbark Hickory Trees

If you decide to begin planting shagbark hickory trees, be prepared to put in the hours of your life to complete the task. It’s important to note that trees don’t produce nuts during the first four decades of their existence if you’re starting with a very young seedling.

How to Grow Shagbark Hickory Trees

It is very difficult to transfer this tree once it has reached maturity. It immediately grows a robust taproot that extends straight down into the ground and becomes established. Despite the fact that this taproot helps it survive droughts, it makes transplantation problematic.

Plant your tree in soil that is well-drained. It thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, and likes healthy, rich soil to thrive in as well. The tree, on the other hand, can withstand practically any sort of soil.

Given its resistance to insect pests and diseases, caring for your shagbark hickory tree should be quite simple. It needs no fertilizer and just a little water. Just be sure to provide it with a big enough space to mature in before planting it.

Care for Shagbark Hickory Trees

Shagbark hickory trees get their unusual name from the intriguing peeling bark that they sport on their trunks and branches. Strips of the tree’s exterior will protrude from one or both ends, curving outward and adding a great deal of texture to the tree’s trunk.

Shagbark Hickory Plant Care

In addition, the wood of the tree is very hard, and it is used to manufacture ax handles, baseball bats, and other things that need strong wood to function well. When the tree is burnt, it emits a pleasant smoke, which is one of the reasons why hickory is so popular in the meat-curing process.

Hickory trees with shagbark bark are simple to care for, but it may take many years for them to become established as shade trees in your environment. Each autumn, the trees will change color to a beautiful yellow or golden brown before dropping their leaves for the winter months.

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When it comes to getting your shagbark hickory tree established in your landscape, full sunshine is desirable, but some shade is generally OK as well. Last but not least, you should strive to provide your tree with at least six to eight hours of direct sunshine every day. The tree will likely become one of the biggest examples in your yard after it has established itself, so you should have no problems with it being shaded by other trees.


Plant your shagbark hickory tree in soil that is wet yet well-draining and that is high in organic matter and minerals. You’ll want to choose the location of your tree with care as well; keep the tree at a safe distance from neighboring buildings and avoid planting it in areas where the roots may someday become a problem, such as near roadways or existing walkways. When planting, make sure that the tree’s root collar is just below the surface of the earth.

Shagbark Hickory Trees Seed


Water your tree on a regular basis, particularly after it has been planted and throughout the duration of its first growing season. A good rule of thumb is to constantly keep the soil wet during the first year of the plant’s life; after that, the roots should have established themselves and the tree should be happy with the regular rain (though you should water in the case of a drought).

Temperature and Humidity Level

It should not be necessary to provide any extra special temperature or humidity conditions as long as you put your tree in the appropriate USDA hardiness zone. Shagbark hickory trees can withstand temperature extremes ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, yet they thrive in regions that are generally temperate and humid.


A smart approach would be to fertilize your shagbark hickory tree every year or two until the tree begins to develop nuts (which may take anywhere from two to 15 years, depending on how mature the tree is to begin with). Using a balanced slow-release mix, fertilize your tree once a year in the early spring or autumn, depending on the time of year. Measure out the fertilizer ahead of time, using one pound of fertilizer for every inch that the trunk’s diameter is in the diameter of the trunk (for example, a tree that has a trunk that is 5 inches in diameter should get 5 pounds of fertilizer).

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How to Harvest Hickory Nuts from Shagbark Trees

Shagbark Hickory Nut Trees

In reality, when people refer to the fruit (nut) of shagbark hickory trees, they’re referring to three different parts of the nut: the husk, the hard outer shell under the husk, and the middle of the nut within the hard outer shell. The husk is the outermost part of the nut, while the hard outer shell is beneath it.

After they are harvested, the nuts ripen in the months of September and October. The green, leathery husk ultimately turns brown and becomes more brittle. Even when the nuts fall to the ground, they may occasionally break apart into four parts, providing access to the flesh that is contained therein. Even in that case, you’ll still have to deal with the tough outer shell. Prematurely breaking the husk should only be attempted if you have a strong appetite for hard effort.

As a result, some harvesters just wait until the end of the season, when all of the nuts have fallen, before harvesting them. Be warned, though, that rats, raccoons, chipmunks, and mice, among other pests, are also fond of shagbark hickory nuts and may be able to get to them before you do.

Eaten directly from the shell, hickory nuts may also be cooked down to make a porridge or baked into a cake or muffin recipe, among other things. After you have taken the meat from the shells, you may store it in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze it for up to a year.