Shagbark Hickory
Carya ovata

Location in Ontario
Shagbark Hickory grows throughout the Deciduous Forest Region, along the Ottawa River and along part of the St. Lawrence River. It is found growing on moist soil.

Shagbark Hickory, Essex County

Genus Carya
Leaves are compound and alternate. All are medium sized trees, except for Shellbark Hickory which is large. Trees are slow growing with hard, heavy wood. The seeds are hard-shelled nuts contained in a husk. Trees are monoecious (male and female flowers on the same tree). Emerging leaves are flower-like, with pink bracts resembling flower petals. Ontario has four species of Carya; Bitternut and Shagbark Hickory, and the Carolinian trees Red and Shellbark Hickory.

TREE FACT: Ash and Hickory are similar, both with compound leaves. Ash leaves are opposite while Hickory leaves are alternate.

A beautiful roadside row of Hickories, including Shellbark, Shagbark and Bitternut. Spring, Norfolk County.

In the Landscape
Shagbark Hickory is a medium sized tree, reaching 25 metres, and 150 years of age. It has a tall, slender form. It has attractive compound leaves and pretty, distinctive shaggy bark. Emerging leaves have colourful bracts that are flower-like.

Roadside Shagbark Hickory, Norfolk County

Shagbark Hickory leaves are compound with 5, or sometimes 7, leaflets with fine teeth. They have a high calcium content which helps to improve soil. Leaves turn yellow to gold in the fall.
Shagbark Hickory has beautiful shaggy bark.
Shagbark Hickory is monoecious (male and female flowers on the same tree). Flowers are small and green, and appear in May with the leaves. Pollen flowers are in catkins, and seed flowers are in small upright clusters. Emerging leaves are flower-like, with pink bud scales resembling flower petals. Flowers are pollinated by wind.
The seeds are hard-shelled nuts contained in a husk. The husks split open into four sections in the fall. The nuts are an important food source for small mammals and birds. Shagbark Hickory produces nuts yearly after 40 years of growth.

TREE FACT: Shagbark Hickory has edible nuts, similar to the related Pecan, but good luck cracking the shells which are extremely hard! Hickory nuts are rarely sold commercially due to the difficulty in removing the shells.

Hickory wood is hard and heavy. The wood is used to make tools handles and sports equipment.
Specific gravity: 0.72
Janka Hardness: 1880 lb
Wood Comparison Chart

The shaggy bark of Shagbark Hickory

There are two recognized variations of Shagbark Hickory which differ in nut size and leaf shape. Shagbark Hickory can hybridize with Shellbark and Bitternut Hickories.

Victim of high lake levels, Rondeau Provincial Park

Link to United States Forest Service Silvics Manual for Shagbark Hickory.