Shellbark Hickory (Big Shagbark Hickory)

Carya laciniosa
Juglandaceae (walnuts)

A large tree with short, stout limbs, narrow crown and shaggy bark.

Leaves alternate, compound, 12-24 inches long, with 7 leaflets; each leaflet 5-9 inches long, oval, broadest above the middle, edges finely toothed, dark green.

Bark similar to shagbark hickory: gray, separating into long, thin shaggy plates hanging loosely, with ends curving away from the trunk.

Twigs stout, dark brown to reddish-orange; pores narrow.

Flowering: April-May; male and female flowers separate on the same tree; male catkins in threes, female flowers 2-5, at the ends of branches.

Fruiting: September-October; nuts solitary or in clusters of 2 or 3, egg-shaped to nearly globe-shaped, depressed at the tip, 1-3 inches long; husk to ½ inch thick; light to dark brown, smooth to downy, hard, splitting easily along the 4 ribs at maturity.

Compared to shagbark hickory, shellbark has larger leaves, more leaflets (5-9 instead of 3-5), larger nuts and orange twigs.

Height: 90 feet (to 130 feet); spread: 50 feet. The largest of the true hickories.
Habitat and conservation: 
Found in the fertile bottomland soils of valleys along streams and in river floodplains, usually in partial sun. This species is becoming scarce because the rich, deep river bottom soils it grows in have been cleared to grow crops. It is a slow-growing tree that makes an excellent shade tree in moist soil.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide, exept for the Ozarks.
Human connections: 
This bears the best-tasting Missouri hickory nuts, and these rich, nutritious fruits were an important food for Native Americans. They and European settlers used the inner bark for cane crafts such as basketry. The wood is used for snowshoes, barrel hoops, ladders and tool handles.
Ecosystem connections: 
Gray squirrels and other mammals relish the nuts, whose high fat content provides the energy needed for overwintering. Trees provide cover, nesting sites and dens for a variety of wildlife, ranging from birds and opossums to tiny, well-camouflaged jumping spiders.
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