Tree of the Month: Shagbark Hickory

Scientific Name: Carya Ovata

Shagbark Hickory is a medium sized tree that can be found in southwestern Ontario along the St. Lawrence River and in some southern parts of Quebec. Shagbark Hickory trees can grow anywhere from 20 to 30 meters tall and between 20 and 80 cm in diameter. This tree prefers rich moist soils and full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. This tree can live up to 200 years of age in the right conditions and is often found along hillsides and in valleys.

Shagbark Hickory trees have green leaves that are 15 to 25 cm long and finely toothed with tufts of fine hairs on each tooth, with the underside of the leaves being slightly hairy and pale. The pollen flowers are also distinct, as they are clustered in sets of threes that droop down at the base of new shoots. Shagbark Hickory gets its name from how the bark looks when it has matured. As the tree ages, the bark turns a dark gray and has shaggy long strips, making it a very distinguishable feature of the tree. As well, it has a sweet edible nut that is around 3 to 5 cm long with a thick husk and a hard, thin shell.

Fun Fact: Shagbark Hickory nuts are an important food source for many small animals, particularly squirrels! As well, the nuts have been traditionally used in a variety of dishes, and are known for their sweet flavour.


Image: Chris Earley, University of Guelph,

Farrar, J.L. (1995). Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside