Skip to Content

Carya ovata – Wikipedia

« Back to Glossary Index

**Taxonomy and Classification**:
– Carya ovata is a species of hickory native to North America.
– Belongs to the genus Carya in the walnut family, Juglandaceae.
– Classified under the order Fagales and the family Juglandaceae.
– Commonly known as the shagbark hickory due to its distinctive shaggy bark.
– The species name ‘ovata’ refers to its egg-shaped fruits.
– Older binomial names include Carya ovata var. fraxinifolia, Carya ovata var. nuttallii, etc.
– ‘Hicoria alba,’ ‘Hicoria borealis,’ and ‘Hicoria ovata’ are older names for the tree.

**Distribution and Habitat**:
– Found throughout most of the eastern United States.
– Largely absent from the southeastern and Gulf coastal plains.
– Presence in eastern Canada up to Lavant Township, Canadian zone 4b.
– Scattered locations in the Sierra Madre Oriental of eastern Mexico.
– Introduced in Europe in the 17th century and still present in Central Europe.
– Thrives in moist, well-drained soils of deciduous forests.
– Grows best in regions with cold winters and hot summers.
– Often found in mixed hardwood forests alongside other tree species.
– Distribution extends from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Iowa and Texas.

**Uses and Indigenous Importance**:
– Edible nuts with excellent flavor, popular among people and squirrels.
– Unsuitable for commercial production due to long tree maturation time.
Hickory nuts were a significant food source for Native Americans.
Wood used for smoking meat, making tools, and bows.
– Shagbark hickory bark used to flavor maple-style syrup.
– Shagbark hickory nuts were a staple in the indigenous diet.
– Excavations in Georgia revealed large-scale processing and storage of hickory nuts.
– Has cultural significance among indigenous communities for its food and medicinal uses.

**Morphology and Characteristics**:
– Can grow up to 100 feet tall with a straight trunk and narrow crown.
– Leaves are compound, typically with 5 leaflets, dark green in color.
– Produces edible nuts that are round and enclosed in a thick husk.
– Bark is light gray and peels away in long strips, giving it a shaggy appearance.
Wood is valued for its strength and durability, used in furniture and tool handles.

**Ecological Importance and Conservation**:
– Provides food and shelter for various wildlife species, including squirrels and birds.
– Plays a role in forest ecosystems by contributing to biodiversity.
– The nuts are an important food source for both animals and humans.
Hickory wood is used by some bird species for nesting material.
– Faces threats from habitat loss due to deforestation and urbanization.
– Vulnerable to pests and diseases such as the hickory bark beetle and anthracnose.
– Climate change poses a risk to the species’ suitable habitat.
– Conservation efforts include reforestation programs and protection of existing hickory stands.
– Awareness campaigns aim to highlight the importance of preserving native hickory populations.

« Back to Glossary Index