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Mockernut is the most abundant of the hickories and can grow to 100 feet tall in good locations.  It adapts to a wide range of well-drained soils and likes full sun.  Its catkins, trunk cavities, and sweet nuts attract a variety of wildlife, while the dense, rounded crown and bright yellow fall color add to its appeal.  Also known as big-bud hickory, white hickory, and fragrant hickory, it has scaly large buds, light-colored wood (except for the heartwood, which, like all hickories, has a tan-colored, five-sided pith), and leaves and stems that smell wonderfully spicy when crushed.  Tomentosa refers to the dense, short hairs on the undersides of leaves, and "mockernut" alludes to the grueling undertaking of cracking the hard shell to retrieve the nuts.  The hard, thick nut distinguishes mockernut from other hickories, along with its deep-fissured bark, darker color, hairy leaves, and more-rounded leaflets.


Often found in the wild along ridges and on dry hillsides.  For landscaping, use in parks, large yards for shade, or naturalized areas.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 50-90’ tall. 


Does best with at least 4 hours of sun.  Will not grow in full shade.


Prefers average-to-moist, rich, well-drained soils, but adapts to well-drained sandy, medium, clay, and nutritionally poor soils.  Drought tolerant once established.


Flowers appear as catkins April–May.  Male and female flowers are on the same tree—greenish-yellow, 6” long male catkins grow in threes; short, spiky female catkins with feathery, red stigmata appear on stem tips. Nuts with four-part, green husks mature into thick, brown shells containing edible seeds September–October.    


Dark-green compound leaves have 5-7 wide, rounded, softly serrated leaflets 3-6” long, yellow-green on top, and pale green and hairy on the undersides. 


Stems are covered with resinous hairs and both leaves and stems are aromatic when crushed or cut.  


Bark is thin and gray with deep, narrow fissures.  It’s similar to bitternut hickory but the bark tends to be darker and has darker spaces between the ridges.  Mature bark has a tendency to peel.


Wildlife Value:

Host plant for 231 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including banded hairstreak and eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies, and regal, cecropia and luna moths, as well as several beautiful underwing moths.  Nuts are eaten by red-bellied woodpeckers, red foxes, squirrels, beavers, rabbits, chipmunks, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, wood ducks, and white-footed mice. Squirrels nibble on the large buds. The trunks provide cavities for red-bellied woodpeckers, black ratsnakes, raccoons, and chickadees.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Various parts of the tree have been used as an astringent, a cold remedy, and to promote sweating and vomiting. The inner bark can be chewed to treat mouth sores and applied as a poultice for wounds. The nuts are high in fatty acids that benefit the cardiovascular system, and they also contain essential minerals and protein.


The small, sweet seeds are not commonly eaten because the nuts are so difficult to open.  However, a savory snack is made from brining and baking the nuts. The tree sap is used as a drink.  


Mockernut, considered one of the best hickory woods, is an important commercial timber because it combines strength, hardness, and flexibility. It withstands compression better than most other woods. Its many uses include vehicle parts, parquet floors, tool handles, ladder rungs, athletic goods, baseball bats, drumsticks, golf clubs, and walking sticks.  It also excels as a fuel wood.

Hickory, Mockernut, Carya tomentosa

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  • Once we're certain we have good germination, we'll make these plants available for prepurchase.

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