Favorite November Tree: Kingnut Hickory

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Here at the Lakehouse, we have one particularly amazing tree. It is a Kingnut Hickory tree. These are called by several names including Shagbark Hickory or Shellbark Hickory. Our tree doesn’t have very shaggy bark so we figure it’s a Shellbark. Kingnuts are wonderful because they make the biggest Hickory nuts of any breed Hickory tree. The nuts are 2 inches or longer.

If you’ve never had a Hickory nut, that’s a shame. They are sweet and delicious nuts. They don’t tend to be available commercially, probably because they are so hard. You can’t crack them with a regular nut cracker. You have to use a hammer, and you have to hit them hard. Hickory trees belong to the Walnut family and the insides of the nuts strongly resemble walnuts.

The trees aren’t planted in landscaped much, probably because they are rather slow growing and they don’t produce nuts until they are at least 40 years old. How lucky for us to have a mature Hickory tree! We have another one that is younger. It’s a pretty big tree, but it doesn’t produce nuts yet.

The big Hickory makes nuts every year, but the crop is much bigger every other year, which seems to be normal for these trees.

The nuts are eaten by a variety of wildlife, including ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, foxes and raccoons.

We have been especially enjoying the Hickory this fall because its leaves turned a beautiful blazing yellow. It just glows in the sun.

Some Hickory trivia: the wood is hard, heavy, strong and flexible. That’s why it is a favorite wood for tool handles. It also has beautiful grain that makes it a favorite for furniture and cabinets. Hickory is also favored when smoking meats. Such a versatile tree.

Shellbark hickory trees grow in the Ohio and upper Mississippi River valleys plus areas of New England and west to southeastern Iowa, then south to northeastern Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky. There are some in parts of Arkansas, east Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and northern Georgia.

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