Back to the Juglandaceas! The common eating nuts (walnuts and pecans) have been covered, so now it’s the hickories, some of which are tasty and some of which are not, but even the tasty ones are a pain to get to, with amazingly hard shells, unless you are a squirrel, all of which have magical nut cracking powers. The house nutcracker won’t even go through them.
First hickory is Carya ovata, the shagbark hickory, which has (ready?) really shaggy bark. Seriously shaggy bark. There is another shaggy tree in the Piedmont, an oak, but that one only gets shaggy at the top. Shagbarks are shaggy all the way down. They are water loving trees, so you find them near streams and rivers and the like.
The leaves have five leaflets: two tiny ones, two really big ones, and a larger one pointing out the top. When they are small, they often do not have the really tiny ones closest to the branch, so look remarkably like poison ivy. If in doubt, leave them be, but poison ivy has hairy rootlets on its stems, and shagbarks do not.
The nuts have four ridged, extremely thick husks and do not have a pronounced tip at the far end. They are a bit over an inch long and apparently taste good, but are impossible to get to. Also note that describing the nuts at this time of year is pointless due to the magic squirrels.
So here’s our list so far:
Pecan = four sided husks, 11 leaflets.
Black walnut = golfball husks, lotsa leaflets.
Shagbark hickory = crazy shaggy bark, blunt four ridged husks, 5 leaflets of pronounced different sizes.
Coming soon, mockernuts!