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Pignut hickory

A pignut hickory nut.

Pignut hickory is a large tree that has a tall, but relatively narrow crown. The bark is tight rather than shaggy and fall color is golden. The nuts produced are bitter tasting.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

Botanical name:

Carya glabra

All common names:

pignut hickory

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

50-60 feet

Mature Width:

25-35 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Fall color

Seasons of Interest:

  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • Migrant birds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Spring transplant only; develops a long taproot, making it difficult to transplant.
Like all hickories, debris from its fruit drop from late summer throughout autumn, making fall cleanup in urban areas more challenging.

Disease, pests, and problems

Potential problems include anthracnose, hickory bark beetles, galls.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Found in drier, upland habitats

Bark color and texture 

Bark is dark gray with interlacing ridges.  With age it takes on a very slightly shaggy look.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, compound leaves have 5 to 7 ovate leaflets.  The end leaflet is the largest.  The whole leaf measures 8 to 12 inches long.
Leaves medium green with serrate margins.  Fall color is golden brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Relatively inconspicuous; tiny male flowers in drooping clusters of catkins; small green female flowers in spikes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Pear-shaped fruits  are nuts with four-ridged husks.  The husks do not separately easily from the nut
The nuts are bitter.


Location of Carya glabra (Pignut hickory) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.