A species indigenous to North America, shagbark hickory trees are widespread in the Eastern U.S. in zones 4-8. Shagbark hickory trees are related to the pecan, another nut tree indigenous to North America. Although they can reach a height of 130' in some portions of their range, shagbark hickory trees often reach only about half that size. They grow in full to partial sun.
Shagbark Hickory Trees in the Landscape: Cultivars
Shagbark hickory trees are slow growers if left to their own devices, so you'll need to cheat if you wish to plant one and harvest home-grown nuts from it sometime soon. It would just take too long to enjoy a harvest if you tried raising shagbark hickory tree seedlings from the wild. Nurseries who sell commercial cultivars do the cheating for you by employing grafting techniques that produce superior specimens; these can yield a harvest in as little as two to three years. Examples of cultivars are 'Grainger,' 'Abundance' and 'Yoder.' Also, since their long taproots make shagbark hickory trees difficult to transplant, make sure the nursery from which you buy plants has a sensible guarantee policy.
Grimo Nut Nursery, an online merchant for shagbark hickory tree cultivars, advises us to give careful consideration in deciding between grafted trees or those produced from seed. Says Grimo:
If one or two trees is being planted, consider the grafted tree. Grafted trees are produced to duplicate the selections that have the best flavor, production, cracking quality, and filling of the kernel.
But shagbark hickory trees are not grown exclusively for their nuts. In fact, I would rank nut production only third among the reasons why homeowners might consider planting shagbark hickory trees, as I explain below.
Attractive Features of Shagbark Hickory Trees
The attractive features of these shagbark hickory trees include:
- Fall foliage
- Novel bark for winter interest
- Edible landscaping: a tasty nut
Shagbark hickory trees are deciduous and provide excellent fall foliage color (see picture above, at right). In autumn their leaves turn a golden color -- richer than the yellows displayed by the maples.
"Shagbark" hickory trees derive their picturesque name from the interesting exfoliating bark they bear. The peeling bark juts out from one or both ends, curling outward. Even when the leaves are long gone from the deciduous trees in winter, this feature of shagbark hickory trees provides landscape interest.
The fragrant nut the trees bear is said to be the tastiest from any of the hickory nut trees.
On Page 2 we'll continue our investigation of shagbark hickory trees. Included will be growing tips from the pros and harvesting pointers....