Shagbark Hickory grows in many parts of the eastern half of the United States and prefers a more humid climate. It gets its name from the shaggy bark that develops on the trunk after the tree reaches maturity. Until that time the easiest way to identify it is by the leaves. The Shagbark has five leaflets on each leaf, which is unique to the the Hickory family but is more akin to the Walnut family. The nuts ripen in September and October and the husks are green prior to ripening and then turn brown to black when ripe. The shell is much thinner than a Walnut and is light brown. Maximum seed production occurs when the trees are from 50 to 200 years old. An individual tree can produce from one to two bushels of nuts in a productive year which may occur every two to three years.
You must transplant them when they are very small because you must get all of the tap root which at three years old can be as deep as three feet.
The Cherokee used this tree in many ways. The wood is dense and hard and was the wood of choice for use in their smokehouses because it would burn hot and even, and deliver the hickory smoked flavor. The nuts have a very high oil content and the Cherokee would crush them for the oil and cook with it. They would also make Hickory syrup which is so tasty. I highly recommend it and usually have samples available during my presentations. Since the wood was hard and dense they would also make bows and stickball sticks. A tea was made from the inner bark to treat colds and fever. Look for this tree the next time you are hiking and remember how special this tree was to the Cherokee.