Carolinian
 
and Deciduous Forest Trees

of Southern Ontario

Shellbark Hickory
Carya Laciniosa

Location in Ontario: Shellbark Hickory is a Carolinian Tree that grows in Lambton County and along Lake Erie.


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 bud scales 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 roadside row of Hickories, including Shellbark, Shagbark and Bitternut. Spring, Norfolk County.

Habitat: Shellbark Hickory prefers moist soil.

Landscape Use: Shellbark Hickory is a medium to large sized tree with a tall, slender form. It has attractive shaggy bark, large leaves and colourful new growth. Shellbark is the fastest growing of the Hickories, but still relatively slow!

Leaves:  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.


Shellbark Hickory, emerging leaves

FALL COLOUR WATCH:  yellow to gold to bronze

Flowers:
Shellbark Hickory is monoecious (male and female flowers on the same tree). Flowers are small and green, and appear in May. 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.


Shellbark Hickory in flower

Fruit: 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.


Shellbark Hickory nuts are very large

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.

Bark: The bark is shaggy with long strips.


A shaggy Shellbark Hickory, Essex County

Size: Shellbark Hickory is a large tree, largest of the Canadian Hickories, that can reach 30 metres.

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


Shellbark Hickory, University of Guelph Arboretum

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