What kind of Hickory?

My wife’s mom has this hickory tree in her front yard. It is loaded with nuts this year.

Most of the leaflets have 7 leaves… a few have 5. The bark is not really shaggy… not like my shagbark… but the nuts are pretty well developed now and they do not look like pignut to me. Pignut nuts have a sort of teardrop shape to them.

I removed a section of the huskhusk and it was quite thick 1/4 inch or so.

The tree trunk.

Leaves and nuts.

Anyone know what type this is ?

I am going to collect some and try them out.



Very likely it’s “shellbark” hickory. Likes damp soil.

Let’s see some terminal buds. And more trunk/bark.
I’m not convinced it’s not mockernut.

We visit with her mom (turned 80 a little while back)… every Friday night.

I will get more pics next time we visit. She made it to Church this morning and we took her out to lunch after.

Our squirrel season opens late august… and they are cutting hickory nuts then… would it be ok to harvest a few then and try them out ?



The UT “AG” folks have a pretty good document for identifying the types of Hickory most common in TN and surrounding area. https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1114&context=utk_agexfores

Harvest one now and remove the green outer hull so we can see the nut…that’ll help in the ID. Even if only half grown.

@wdingus - thanks for that UT AG document link, very nice.

@blueberry and @Lucky_P ---- all you Hickory experts… well this is a little disappointing…

NOTE - I have not made it back over to my mother in laws house yet to check her tree and nuts out anymore… should be able to do that on Friday evening…

But I did get out and check a couple of my own hickory trees and found this out…

Don’t count on the Bark appearance to tell for sure what kind of Hickory you have.

Check this out… now this is what I assumed was a Shagbark Hickory… in my field.
Again, never really checked out the nuts or leaves that close.

Note on this tree the majority of the leaf clusters have 5 leaves.

Just looking at that tree and the bark, you would think Shagbark… or I did at least.
Until I got my ladder out there and took a close look at a couple nuts…

If I am correct that is the classic (tear drop) shape of the pignut - Right ?
But pignut are supposed to have the smoother bark, but hey mine is shaggy…

Oh well… pretty sure that one is a pignut looking at the nuts. Agree ?
I may harvest some and try them out this fall anyway, I hear pignut can be bitter.

Now just down the field a bit, I have another hickory… and below is what it looks like (bark/trunk wise).
It is a little shaggy… I was hoping it was a shagbark too…

Note on this tree the majority of the leaf clusters have 7… they are noticeably larger leaves, somewhat glossy.

And below a somewhat distant and upclose pic of the limb tip and nut.

It is a different nut for sure… looking at that document that wdingus provided… possibly a red hickory ?
I will have to try some of them this fall too and see how they taste.

What do you think on these two trees ? Pignut & Red Hickory ? or someting else ?

Edit, add a bit later… I looked at that document again and this is what it says about the Red Hickory…

Red Hickory (Carya ovalis [Wangenh.] Sarg.)
Red hickory is common throughout Tennessee, usually on
dry, well-drained upland ridges and slopes and is found
alongside Pignut hickory. Sometimes it is referred to as
sweet pignut because its nut is sweet, while that of pignut is
typically bitter.
Leaflets mostly 7 (sometimes 5), glabrous leaflets and petiole, petiole
at base of rachis often reddish; fruit round, with thin husk (<0.13 inch);
sutures splitting to base of nut; bark ridges somewhat scaly.

That bit of red tint at the base of the leaf stem… and everything else they say… seems right.



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I’d have shouted ‘shagbark’ from fifty yards, looking at that bark… but the nuts sure look more like pignut. (fingers crossed)Maybe they’re just ‘filling out’ from end to base… IDK.
Second one sure looks like the bark on red hickory here…almost as shaggy as many shellbarks, but buds on my red hickory are more rounded. Nuts on mine are comparable to an average local wild shagbark. Certainly worth gathering and cracking if you don’t have an exceptional shag or shellbark on hand.


Yah , hickories are tough.
Some hickories around here may have read the ID books ,
And behave .
, a lot of them are somewhere in between.
I think they are genetically diverse, many hybrids.
Hard to ID for me.


Hybridization does occur within groups with similar chromosome counts… f’r’instance… pecan, bitter pecan, bitternut hickory, shagbark & shellbark hickory all have 32 chromosomes, and will cross with one another, but I’m not certain that the 64-chromosome species, like pignut, red, mockernut, etc. will hybridize with the 32-chromosome species.


I have SAME tree. 5 bushels of nuts last year. Great taste. A lot of trouble to crack. Not worth effort to me

@ggrindle … I found this old cast iron nut cracker at a antique store in Algood TN. I think that was back in January… found some pignut then and it worked pretty good on them.

It won’t be fast and I may have to crack them on the back porch but I will give it a try.



Hand cracking…ain’t nothing fast…but im unaware of any effective mechanized cracker that works well on hickories or black walnuts… nuts from each individual tree have their own peculiar ‘best crack’ characteristics… some best end-to-end, some best side-to-side, etc. You have to crack quite a few to figure out what’s best. I have several different crackers…some cultivars crack better with one than another.


There is a cone cracker that is fairly good cracking walnuts. It is a commercial machine, meaning too expensive for most of us.

When I was down below Selma Alabama looking for Nutmeg Hickory trees, I put in some time looking at the bark of a few hundred trees. I found trees with shaggy bark and I found trees with diamond bark. These trees were obviously C. Myristiciformis (nutmeg). I figured out pretty quick that you can’t rely on the bark pattern to determine species. Another thing I found in that area was 3 different species of hickory growing within 100 feet of each other. Pignut, Nutmeg, and Mockernut were growing in an area that had likely been an old Amerindian camp.


@BlueBerry @Lucky_P @wdingus @Hillbillyhort @ggrindle

We visited my MIL this evening… and I got a few more pics of her Hickory Tree…

I am starting to think Mockernut mysellf… but see what you all think…

First here are a few more pics of the tree trunk, and bark up close and the top portion…

GC Hickory1

I think this is what you refer to as the terminal bud ?

It is loaded with nuts and they look to be good size nuts… well until you take the shell off. It is quite thick (hear that is a trait of the mockernut).

Once the shell is removed the actual nut is quite small.

My old antique cast iron nut cracker made quick work of it, and cracked it nicely. Two tries and it was cracked nicely, but not crushed. Worked very well.

Don’t think the nut is fully developed or anywhere near ripe yet – inside that tiny nut the nut shell is quite thick, and the nut meat itself looks to be quite small.

What do you think ? Mockernut ? something else ?



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It appears you’ve finally cracked this nut. (Pun intended.) Congrats.

Never heard of mockernut

It’s a mockernut. Carya tomentosa.
They’re rarely worth the trouble to attempt to crack - as you’ve already seen, thick shell with prominent internal ribs that trap kernel… most only yield small fragments of kernel that you have to dig out with a nutpick. But they may be the most flavorful of the hickories.
I’ll usually gather a few to crack and throw in the pot when I’m cooking down shagbark nutshells & husks to make ‘hickory syrup’, just for the rich flavor they confer.


“But they may be the most flavorful of the hickories.”

Mockernut has the distinction of some trees making outstandingly good flavored nuts and other trees with nuts that are bland and flavorless. I can show you a Mockernut tree on Natchez Trace that is the best flavored I’ve tried and I can show you another growing at my old place in Hamilton Alabama that is bland.

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This other thread might interest you, especially with regards to shaggy barked hickories that show traits not altogether consistent with shagbark hickory ID.

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