Shellbark Hickory
Carya laciniosa

Location in Ontario
Shellbark Hickory is a Carolinian Tree that grows in Lambton County and along Lake Erie. It prefers moist soil.

Shellbark Hickory, University of Guelph Arboretum

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
Shellbark Hickory is a large tree, largest of the Canadian Hickories, that can reach 30 metres. It can live to over 300 years! Shellbark Hickory has a tall, slender form with attractive shaggy bark, large leaves and colourful new growth. Shellbark is the fastest growing of the Hickories, but still relatively slow!

Shellbark Hickory, University of Guelph Arboretum

Shellbark Hickory leaves are very large with 7-9 leaflets that are finely toothed. They have a high calcium content which helps to improve soil. Leaves turn yellow to brown in the fall.
The bark is shaggy with long strips.
Shellbark 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 wind pollinated.
The seeds are large, 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.  Shellbark Hickory produces nuts yearly after 40 years of growth.

TREE FACT: Shellbark Hickory has edible nuts, similar to the related Pecan, but with thick shells that are difficult to crack. Hickory nuts are rarely sold commercially due to the difficulty in removing the shells.

Hickory wood is hard and heavy.
Specific gravity: 0.69
Janka Hardness: 1810 lb
Wood Comparison Chart

Shellbark Hickory has 32 chromosomes and readily hybridizes with Shagbark Hickory.

Shellbark Hickory, emerging leaves

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