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TREES & plants

Shagbark hickory

Plant a shagbark hickory in a large landscape for excellent shade. This Midwest native is named for its bark, which peels away in large, flat, curving plates, giving the tree a shaggy appearance. As a member of the walnut family, the hickory produces edible nuts.

Botanical name: 
Carya ovata
All Common Names: 
shagbark hickory
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
60-80 feet
Mature Width: 
30-50 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
  • Edible fruit
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Oval
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • No
  • Cavity-nesting birds
  • Game birds
  • Migrant birds
  • Small mammals
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

A long-lived large tree with a straight trunk.
Best grown in well-drained soil in large landscapes.
Develops a long taproot, making it difficult to transplant.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems

Disease, pests and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Found in upland woodlands and savannas.

Bark color and texture

Mature trees have gray bark that exfoliates in long flat plates with outwardly curving ends giving the tree a shaggy appearance; shaggy bark has year-round appeal.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate,  8 to 14 inches long pinnately compound leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets with serrated margins
Terminal buds are 1inch long and hairy.
Fall color is golden brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Relatively inconspicuous; tiny male flowers in 3 to 4 inch long,  pendulous catkin; small female flowers are in terminal spikes.

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a rounded nut with a thick  four-sectioned husk.
Edible nut ripens in the fall.