Content Detail

Pignut hickory is a large tree that has a tall, but relatively narrow crown. The bark is tight rather than shaggy and the fall color is golden. The nuts produced are bitter tasting.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Walnut
  • Family (botanic) Juglandaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-60 feet
  • Mature width 25-35 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Migrant birds
  • Has cultivars No

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 5. Pignut hickory is found in drier upland habitats.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is dark gray with interlacing ridges. It takes on a very slightly shaggy look with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Alternate, compound leaves have five to seven ovate leaflets. The end leaflet is the largest. The whole leaf measures 8 to 12 inches long. Leaves are medium green with serrate margins. Fall color is golden brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Relatively inconspicuous, tiny male flowers are in drooping clusters of catkins and small green female flowers in spikes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Pear-shaped fruits  are nuts with four-ridged husks. The husks do not separately easily from the nut and the nuts are bitter.

Plant care:

Spring transplant only. This tree develops a long taproot, making it difficult to transplant. Like all hickories, debris from its fruit drops from late summer throughout autumn, making fall cleanup in urban areas more challenging.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Potential problems include anthracnose, hickory bark beetles, and galls. Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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