Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pignut Hickory - Carya glabra

The Pignut Hickory - Carya glabra is most easily identified by the combination of 5-7 hairless leaflets and snout like extension at thr fruits base. It is a deciduous tree with a rather large Native growth range that spans across the entire East Coast (excluding only Maine) from New Hampshire in the North to Florida in the South continuing West through Eastern Texas, Eastern Kansas, Eastern Oklahoma, Illinois and Michigan. It prefers well drained moist uplands, floodplain margins, slopes, and dry rocky soils and is found between 0-800m. At maturity it can reach heights of between 80-130 feet tall, growing in a generally upright fashion it tends to have a broad crown when surroundings allow (in woods settings it is more narrow at the crown).

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

The bark of the Pignut Hickory is gray and tight to moderately furrowed. The leaves are alternate pinnately compounded with an evident terminal leaflet. Each leaf is made up of leaflets usually occurring in numbers of 5-7 or very rarely 3 with sharply toothed margins. The upper leaf surface is a dark green while the lower is a paler green with small tufts of hair in the major vein axils. In the fall the leaves change to a rusty yellow color before falling. The male flowers occur in catkins that are 5-7 cm long and 5 mm in diameter. The fruit is an ellipsoid or rounded husk covered nut that ranges in size from 2.5-6cm long. The husk of the fruit is very thin usually only 2-5mm thick, splitting in an irregular fashion. The shell of the nut is tan with a sweet kernel that matures in the Fall.

Image Citation: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

The hickory tree's strong yet flexible wood and excellence as fuel made it invaluable to pioneers, the Pignut Hickory is no exception to this.  It is a large slow growing deciduous tree that can stand on it's own a the centerpiece of a landscape design.  The pignut hickory offers lightly hung foliage in the Summer months that casts a medium shade to the ground below. The yellow leaf coloring in the Fall and the open crown habit and bark in the Winter are some of the most notable points of visual interest. The hickory is particularly beautiful when winter buds open in late spring; the bud scales fold back, petal-like, as new foliage emerges. Pignut hickory's nutritious nuts attract various type of wildlife.  The Pignut Hickory is recommended for hardiness zones 4-8.

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