Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Carya alba

Mockernut hickory, Big bud hickory

Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Carya alba (Mockernut hickory)
Flaigg, Norman G.
Mockernut hickory is a 50-60 ft. tree which can reach 100 ft. in height on good soil. Its dark bark is rough and thin with shallow furrows and narrow ridges forming a net-like pattern. It does not peel like Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). Pinnately compound, deciduous leaves turn bright, golden-yellow if the tree has not suffered drought. Small, barely edible nuts are enclosed in a large, thick shell.

The wood of this common hickory and related species is prized for furniture, flooring, tool handles, baseball bats, skis, and veneer. Hickory wood has a very high fuel value, both as firewood and as charcoal, and is the preferred wood for smoking hams. People must arrive early to gather hickory nuts before they are consumed by squirrels and other wildlife. The former Latin species name, tomentosa, meaning densely covered with soft hairs, describes the undersurfaces of leaflets, a characteristic that makes this tree easily identifiable.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Light reddish brown
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MA , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , DC
Native Distribution: MA & NY to c. IL, s.e. IA, MO & e. KS, s. to e. TX & n. FL
Native Habitat: Dry, upland forests & ridges

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry, sandy to mesic, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Carya tomentosa is slow-growing and long-lived. Nearly impossible to transplant because of a large taproot. Difficult to find in commerce. Responds best in sunny, fertile sites. Nuts present a problem in manicured landscapes. Stressed trees are subject to hickory bark beetle.


Use Wildlife: Serves as a primary host for some magnificent moths.
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Luna, funeral dagger, and giant regal.

Last Update: 2013-09-06