BenefitsRead full entry
Special UsesHickories serve as food for many wildlife species. The nuts are a preferred food of squirrels and are eaten from the time fruits approach maturity in early August until the supply is gone. Hickory nuts also are 5 to 10 percent of the diet of eastern chipmunks. In addition to the mammals above, black bears, gray and red foxes, rabbits, and white-footed mice plus bird species such as mallards, wood ducks, bobwhites, and wild turkey utilize small amounts of hickory nuts (14). Hickory is not a preferred forage species and seldom is browsed by deer when the range is in good condition. Hickory foliage is browsed by livestock only when other food is scarce.
The bark texture and open irregular branching of shagbark hickory make it a good specimen tree for naturalistic landscapes on large sites. It is an important shade tree in previously wooded residential areas. At least one ornamental cultivar of shagbark hickory has been reported (10), but it is not planted as an ornamental to any great extent.
The species normally contributes only a very small percentage of total biomass of a given forest stand. Its adaptability to a wide range of site conditions and vigorous sprouting when cut make shagbark a candidate for coppice fuelwood. However, difficulty in planting and generally slow growth makes shagbark less attractive than many faster growing species.
Hickory has traditionally been very popular as a fuelwood and as a charcoal-producing wood. The general low percentage of hickory in the overstory of many privately owned woodlots is due in part to selective cutting of the hickory for fuelwood. Hickory fuelwood has a high heat value, burns evenly, and produces long-lasting steady heat; the charcoal gives food a hickory-smoked flavor.
The wood of the true hickories is known for its strength, and no commercial species of wood is equal to it in combined strength, toughness, hardness, and stiffness (18). Dominant uses for hickory lumber are furniture, flooring, and tool handles. The combined strength, hardness, and shock resistance make it suitable for many specialty products such as ladder rungs, dowels, athletic goods, and gymnasium equipment.
Shagbark hickory is probably the primary species, after pecan (Carya illinoensis), with potential for commercial nut production. The nuts have sweet kernels and fair cracking quality (which is often better in cultivars). The species can be successfully top-grafted on shagbark, and shellbark rootstocks and grafts on older rootstocks can bear in 3 to 4 years.