Hickory (Carya ovata), is probably the most distinctive of all the hickories because of its loose-plated bark. Common names include shellbark hickory, scalybark hickory, shagbark, and upland hickory. Shagbark hickory is evenly distributed throughout the Eastern States and, together with pignut hickory, furnishes the bulk of the commercial hickory. The tough resilient properties of the wood make it suitable for products subject to impact and stress. The sweet nuts, once a staple food for American Indians, provide food for wildlife.
THE TREE: Hickory trees can reach a height of 140 ft (43 m), with a diameter of 4 ft (1.2 m). The bark is shaggy, light grey and separates into thick, vertical strips that are only slightly attached to tree. Hickory leaves are 8 to 15 inches in length and composed of 5 (rarely 7) ovate leaflets with the end leaflet being larger than the other leaflets; margin of leaflet covered with fine teeth and numerous hairs.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: The sapwood of hickory is white, tinged with brown, while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown. The wood is known for its strength and shock resistance. It is difficult to dry or season. It rates above average in most working properties, except in shaping and nail-holding ability.
The wood of hickory is tough, heavy, hard, and resilient. It is well suited to uses which require a wood capable of resisting impact and stress. The close-grained heartwood is reddish brown and the sapwood nearly white. Wood was formerly used to make wheels and spokes for wagons, carriages, carts, and early automobiles. Hickory wood is currently used to make furniture, flooring, tool handles, dowels, ladders, and sporting goods.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Hickory occurs throughout most of the eastern North America but is largely absent from the southeastern and Gulf coastal plains and the lower Mississippi Delta. It is found from southeastern Nebraska and southeastern Minnesota eastward through southern Ontario and Quebec to Maine and extends southward to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and eastern Texas. Disjunct populations have been reported in the mountains of northeastern Mexico.