A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants
Shellbark Hickory, Big Leaf Shagbark, Big Shagbark Hickory, Bottom Shellbark, King Nut Hickory
Full to part sun; moderately wet to medium moisture; rich, humusy soil; acidic to neutral pH.
60-80 feet height by 40-60 feet width; greenish yellow flowers in April and May; egg-shaped hickory nuts in fall.
Growth Rate: Slow
Maintenance: Low maintenance. Few serious insect or disease problems. Subject to numerous insects but none that threaten its development. Produces considerable litter of twigs, leaves and nuts. Leafs out late in spring and drops leaves early in fall.
Propagation: Seed germination code C(60-150) at 34 degrees F. Seedlings rapidly develop a taproot but top growth is slow.
Native Region: Scattered lightly across the state but concentrated mostly along the Coastal Plain.
Shellbark Hickory is a slow-growing, long-lived tree reaching up to 300 years of age. Makes a nice, sturdy shade tree although it is uncommon in the cultivated landscape. Deep tap root makes it difficult to transplant. Bark exfoliates in long strips with age, similar to a Shagbark Hickory. Has both male and female flowers. Male flowers are pendulous catkins 4-8 inches long; greenish yellow female flowers form in short spikes. Produces edible egg-shaped nuts. King Nut Hickory name comes from fact that the nuts are the largest of the hickory species. Nut crop not produced until tree is about 40 years old and then is produced about every 2 years or more irregularly. Has good fall leaf color, typically yellow to golden brown. Tolerates periodic flooding and occurs naturally on deep, moist bottomland, along stream and river banks, and on floodplains. The wood is hard, heavy and strong making it desirable for tool handles and furniture-making. Cultivars available, typically used for nut production.
Attracts many wildlife species. Nuts provide food for a wide variety of birds and small mammals; leaves feed a limited number of butterfly and moth caterpillars.