| The shagbark hickory is native to Southern Ontario, growing in a wide range of soils in zone 5 & 6. It is easily identified by the bark which sticks out and appears to be falling off, giving it a shaggy appearance and thus its name.
It has a long heavy tap root and so is considered difficult to transplant. It is important to have a 50 cm or more taproot, depending on size when moving one. Then it takes two years for the tree to recover and make good growth again. Shagbark hickory is the hardiest of the edible hickory species growing into climate zone 5.
Grown from seed, it can take 10 or more years for hickory trees to start to bear. Grafted trees will begin to bear sooner. Grimo Nut Nursery has found that for grafted trees, the ultra-northern pecan is the best rootstock, better then hickory by far. The grafted trees are pot trained for two years in special long pots to accommodate the long taproot. The shock of planting the tree in the ground is then minimized.
Wild shagbark hickory trees will produce a good crop almost every year but the nut meats are often difficult to remove from the shell. Internal ridges add to the difficulty of removing the nut meat. A large number of selections were made in the last century. A few of them combine the good characteristic of easy kernel removal with good production. Some of the good selections for Ontario include Neilson (an Ontario selection), Weschcke from Iowa, Porter from Pennsylvania, Grainger from Tennessee and Yoder 1 from Ohio.
Pecan Weevil, Curculio caryae
This is a serious late season pest of hickory and pecan. The greatest damage is caused by the grub that feeds directly on the developing kernel.
Adult weevils emerge from the ground in late August through September, about the time nuts begin to harden. Peak periods of adult emergence usually follow heavy rains. After the nut kernels have hardened, the female uses her long snout to chew a hole in the side of the nut and deposits her egg in little pockets in the nut. Creamy white grubs with reddish brown heads hatch and feed inside the nuts during the fall, reaching 3/5 inch in length.
When mature, the grub chews a perfectly round 1/8 inch hole in the side of the nut and falls to the ground in late fall or early winter, usually between late September and December. They make earthen cells in the ground where they remain as a grub one to two years. Most of the grubs will pupate the following fall. Some, however, do not pupate until the fall of the next year. Adults emerge during the summer following pupation. The entire life cycle requires 2 to 3 years to complete, most of it in the soil. By collecting early fallen nuts and destroying them, the grub can be prevented from leaving the nuts and burrowing into the ground and so interrupt its life cycle.
Weevils usually move only a short distance after emerging and often attack nuts on the same trees year after year, so long as there is a crop of nuts. Weevils apparently prefer trees growing in low areas or those near hickory trees. Early maturing varieties are most susceptible to the weevils. Hickory nuts are attacked by the pecan weevil as well.
The Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)
The bitternut hickory is also native to Ontario and true to its name is not edible. To the inexperienced collector, it can be confused with the shagbark. One soon learns the differences in the features after one taste experience. Shagbark hickory has 5 leaflets while bitternut hickory has 9-11. The buds of bitternut hickory are sulphur yellow unlike any other hickory. The paper thin husk is also a clue.