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What Is a Hickory Tree?

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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2014
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A hickory tree is a type of hardwood tree belonging to the walnut family and scientifically classified under the genus Carya, an Ancient Greek word meaning "nut." The hickory tree has large, flat leaves and produces seeds stored inside the nuts that grow on it. It is famous for its edible nuts and its strong wood makes it an excellent building material. About 15 species currently exist in North America, while about four to five species are found in Eastern Asia.

Hickory trees can live 100 years or longer and grow to heights of 100 feet (30.48 m). Long roots anchor them into the ground and keep them standing even in harsh winds or storms. Most species of hickory have leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall, and all species lose their leaves in the winter. New leaves grow in the spring and small, petal-less flowers appear. Yellow-green in color, the flowers rely on the wind to pollinate them.

The nuts are popular for their taste and both squirrels and people fight to collect them. The ones that aren't eaten or harvested may grow and eventually split open to reveal the seeds inside. Once the seeds fall to the ground, a new hickory tree can grow.

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Different types of hickory trees have grown in popularity over the years. The pecan tree is a type of hickory also known for the edible pecan nuts that grow on it. The Shagbark hickory tree is well known for its unusual bark. It appears very shaggy and hangs in thick strips along the trunk. It produces a very sweet tasting type of nut, the largest nut of any in the hickory tree family.

Plant enthusiasts can typically identify the hickory tree by its leaves. Aside from growing large and flat, they usually are clustered in groups of three to five and the entire span of these groups is over 1 foot (0.304 m) long. Full grown trees are also extremely tall and in the fall they have nuts growing on them or lying around the base of the tree.

Each hickory tree has a slightly different type of nut, but they share the same basic features. The nuts start out round and green, but over time they harden into a thick, brown outer shell. A seam runs around the middle where the two halves are connected. Once cracked open, a mostly round, white or tan seed comes out. The inner seed, or nut, is roughly the size of a gumball.

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jmc88
Post 5

Seeing how hard hickory trees are it is easy to see why they were used as baseball bats and as furniture that are designed to last for decades.

I heard stories about baseball players using the same hickory bat for several years and never switch due to the durability and the heaviness of it.

Same thing goes for furniture. If you are looking to find a very sturdy and durable type of furniture the obvious choice is to go for oak, but if you really want sturdiness you go for hickory.

I had a hickory table that was thirty years old when I bought it and it is still being used twenty years later. Has many wear marks on it, but it still serves its purpose and will probably continue to be used for years to come.

Emilski
Post 4

@kentuckycat - I believe you are correct in your statement. I am sure that most of the bats that they use nowadays in Major League baseball as well as their minor league affiliates are either ash bats or maple bats which have now become a source of controversy because of their tendency to shatter.

As an historian I think the last time I remember hearing about a Major League Baseball player using a hickory bat was back around the early Great Depression era before there were regulations on the bats.

Today hickory bats are completely non existent with the exception of the bats that are used as collectibles or for old time baseball games where you may have some historical actors using them.

kentuckycat
Post 3

@matthewc23 - I do not know what they use hickory wood for today besides for sturdy types of furniture, but I do know that in the past they used hickory for making baseball bats.

I believe I have heard stories about how Babe Ruth would always choose to use a hickory bat in order to hit his massive home runs. Along with his awesome and massive power swinging the bat he chose a hickory wooden bat to make his home runs go even farther than what they already did.

I believe because of the hardness of the bats nowadays they now outlaw hickory wooden bats to be used in most leagues. For the major leagues I am sure of this but in other leagues I do not know.

matthewc23
Post 2

I have always noticed that hickory trees usually have the hardest type of wood that is commercially available to use.

Because of the hardness of the wood I have always found hickory to make great types of sturdy furniture that could last for a very long time.

I have to wonder though nowadays besides furniture what else would people use hickory trees for commercially and whether they still use this type of wood on a large scale today?

SarahSon
Post 1

We live on a place that has 20 acres of timber which includes a lot of maples trees, oak trees and hickory trees.

These trees were all planted long before we bought the place, and have been there for a long time.

Needless to say, we have a lot of squirrels and deer in our timber because they love to feed on the nuts and acorns.

I have never really collected many hickory nuts from the trees. They are small and round and are pretty hard to crack open. I don't know how the squirrels do it, but you don't see many of them left on the ground.

The deer mostly eat on the acorns, but the squirrels seem to love the hickory nuts.

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