Knowing the Hickories

I thought it would be appropriate to start off by talking about hickories, in honor of our namesake the Shagbark. On the Sourland Mountain, we have four different species of Hickory: Shagbark, Pignut, Mockernut, and Bitternut. They can be tough to identify, especially when the nearest leaves and buds are 50 feet above you.

I gave myself a photographic mission a little while back: observe and take pictures of our different native hickories. Here's a little guide for distinguishing between them.

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) Shaggy bark exfoliating in long strips. Leaflets usually 5. Medium size nut with thickish husk. Leaflets mildly pubescent. Bark pictured at left.

Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa) Bark messily furrowed, not exfoliating. Leaflets 7-9; densely pubescent/hairy. Seems to grow in poorer, dryer soils. Bark and bud pictured below.

Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra) Bark tight and orderly, not as two-dimensional as Bitternut, occasional exfoliating, but in much narrower strips than Shagbark. Usually 5 leaflets, sometimes 7 are present. Leaves smooth and hairless. Fruit is small with thin husk. Frequent in upland areas. Bark and bud pictured below.

Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) Naked yellow buds are striking and diagnostic. Its 7 to 9 leaflets are generally narrower than other hickories'. Bark is very tightly appressed to the trunk, almost two-dimensional. Common in floodplains and rich woods. Bark and bud pictured below.

Mockernut Hickory Bud and Bark

Pignut Hickory Bark and Bud

Bitternut Hickory Bark and Bud