Shellbark Hickory (Laciniosa)

The Shellbark Hickory (Laciniosa) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Shellbark Hickory (Laciniosa) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Shellbark Hickory (Laciniosa) will reach up to 100 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 35 feet.

The Shellbark Hickory (Laciniosa) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -18°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

The wood of shellbark hickory is hard, heavy, strong, and very flexible, making it a favored wood for tool handles. The hardness and beauty of the grain also make it desired for furniture, cabinets, and veneer. All hickories, however, suffer from ring shake, a separation of wood along the annual rings and a serious problem for thin veneers. It also is prized as fuelwood and charcoal.

The nuts of shellbark hickory are sweet and edible and the largest of all hickories. They are eaten by a wide range of wildlife species, including ducks, quail, wild turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, foxes, raccoons, and white-footed mice. The tree is rarely planted as a shade tree; it is relatively slow growing and difficult to move because of its taproot. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use in nut production or as grafting stock.

General Characteristics

General: Hickory Family (Caryaceae). This species is a native tree 20-30(40) m tall, with an open, round to oblong crown; twigs thick, orange-brown, rusty-hairy when young, becoming glabrous, with a large, elongate terminal bud; bark initially smooth and light gray with shallow interlacing ridges, later developing long, broad, loosely attached plates attached at the middle and curving away from the trunk, resulting in a coarsely shaggy appearance. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, pinnately compound, (3)5-9 dm long, with a usually hairy rachis, leaflets (5)7-9(11), obovate to oblong-lanceolate, 9-20 cm long, the terminal usually much larger than the lateral, acuminate, coarsely toothed, without tufts of hair on the teeth, shiny dark green above, paler and soft-hairy beneath and scaly with abundant large peltate scales and small round peltate scales. The male (staminate) flowers are in slender, yellow-green, pendent spikes (catkins) to 20 cm long, female (pistillate) flowers are short, in clusters of 2-5 at branch tips; male and female flowers borne separately but on the same tree (the species monoecious). Fruits are tan to brown, spherical to ellipsoid, not compressed or slightly so, 4.5-6 long, 4-5 cm wide, the husks minutely hirsute, 7-13 mm thick, divided all the way to the base into 4 sections; nuts large, 4­angled, cream colored, thick-shelled (4 mm). The common name is in reference to the mature bark that peels away like a shell, albeit in strips. It is also called kingnut hickory, because it has the largest nut of all hickories.

Variation within the species: No variants are recognized within the species, but numerous cultivars of shellbark hickory have been named, with most originating in Iowa or Pennsylvannia (Grauke 1988). Hybrids with pecan form C. x nussbaumeri Sarg. – a group of hybrids with large nuts. One of them, 'Gerardi', has been recommended as a rootstock for pecan. Shellbark hickory also hybridizes with shagbark hickory to produce C. x dunbarii.

Shellbark hickory is similar to shagbark (Carya ovata) in its bark that peels away in plates. Trees of shellbark tend to be shorter and with heavier branches than shagbark, and the bark plates of shellbark hickory are straighter (with less curve). Shellbark generally has 7-9 leaflets (vs. 5) and the leaves do not have tufts of hair at the tip of the teeth. The shellbark hickory prefers bottomlands and is not as widely distributed as the shagbark. The flavor of shellbark kernels is considered by many to be inferior to shagbark hickory.

Required Growing Conditions

Shellbark hickory grows primarily in the Ohio and upper Mississippi River valleys, but the total range is wider, from New England west to southeastern Iowa, then south to northeastern Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky, with isolated populations in southern Arkansas, east Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Shellbark usually occurs on deep bottomland soils of rivers and creeks but can less commonly occur on dry, sandy soils and open cedar glades in northern portions of its range, at elevations of 20-300 meters. It is a minor component of the bur oak forest and in the South, of the swamp chestnut oak­cherrybark oak forest. It usually occurs in mixtures with various other bottomland species.

Flowering: April-June, after the leaves have appeared; fruiting: September-October but some fruits may persist on trees until December.

Cultivation and Care

The minimum tree age for seed production in shellbark hickory is about 40 years, with most seed produced between 75-200 years. Some seeds are borne every year but mast crops are produced about every second year or more irregularly. Shellbark hickory seeds require 90-120 days of cold stratification to break embryo dormancy prior to germination.

Germination and establishment occur from late April to early June. The seedlings rapidly develop a long taproot, but shoot growth is initially slow. Young plants are frequently overtopped by competition but they are shade-tolerant. Shellbark hickory sprouts readily following fire or cutting (or other mechanical injury). Oldest trees may reach 300 years of age.

General Upkeep and Control

Trees are late coming into leaf (usually late May to June) and lose their leaves early in the autumn (usually October). The mature leaves cast a heavy shade. This light regime makes the trees well suited for a mixed woodland planting with shrubs and other trees beneath.

Seeds are best sown in a cold frame for natural stratification, as soon as they are ripe. Stored seed should be kept moist; stratify 60-150 days at 1( C. Sow 1-2 seeds in a deep pot and thin to the best seedling; accommodate the tap root if necessary to transplant, but place into permanent positions as soon as possible, preferably in the first summer. Seed can also be sown in situ, giving protection from predators and from cold (a plastic bottle with the top and bottom removed and a top-fitted wire mesh).

Shellbark hickory sprouts readily following fire or cutting (or other mechanical injury) and coppice management has been recommended. The species can be propagated with good success by grafting and budding. Hickories are generally self-fertile but larger crops of better quality seeds are produced following cross-pollination. Other information on CALU9.PG (yellow mariposa lily

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 100
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -18
Soil Depth for Roots 60
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6.4–7.4 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 170–700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 60
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA