Mockernut hickory

Carya tomentosa
Family: Juglandaceae

Natural Historymockernut hickory branch
Leaves and fruit of mockernut hickory
Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

The mockernut hickory is a very slow-growing and long-lived tree, capable of reaching ages of up to 500 years. It is classified as shade-intolerant, and is considered to be a climax species on moist sites. Due to the low insulating capacity of its bark, the mockernut hickory has a very low tolerance to fire.

Habitat & Range

The mockernut hickory is abundant in mixed hardwood forests on dry upland slopes.  It is commonly found in association with other hickories, many oaks, sweetgum, yellow-poplar, and black locust. It is found in the eastern United States from southern Maine west through southern Michigan and northern Illinois to eastern Nebraska, and south to northern Florida in the east and to eastern Texas in the west. 

Wildlife Use

The nuts of the mockernut hickory are preferred mast for a wide variety of wildlife including black bears, white-tailed deer, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, beavers, white-footed mice, and to a lesser extent ducks, quail, and turkey. White-tailed deer also browse on foliage and twigs.

Human Use

The wood from the mockernut hickory is used for handle stock, basketry, and agricultural implements. The wood makes excellent fuel, and the nuts are edible. 


 

Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Mockernut hickory is a medium-sized tree reaching 50 to 60 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. Unlike most hickories, the mockernut has a broad, rounded crown. New sprouts can grow from stumps.
Leaves: The leaves are pinnately compound, alternate, and deciduous. They grow between 6 and 12 inches in length with 5 to 9 fragrant leaflets, each growing up to 8 inches long and 3 to 5 inches wide with long-tapered acute apices. The lowermost pair of the leaflet is ovate and much smaller than the others. The remaining leaves are obvate or broadly elliptical with the uppermost pair almost the same size as the terminal leaflet. Leaflet bases are rounded or broadly wedge-shaped. The margins are finely to coarsely serrate. Leaves are shiny yellowish-green on top with sparse pubescence. The underside is pale green with dense orange-brown pubescence. The leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. The rachis is stout, grooved, also covered with pubescence, and is fragrant when bruised.
Twigs: The twigs are stout and reddish-brown to grayish-brown. The current season's growth is pubescent. The pith is homogeneous.
Bark: The bark is gray with shallow and narrow ridges and furrows that form a diamond-like pattern.
Flowers: The mockernut hickory is a monoecious species. The yellow-green male flowers are dropping catkins that hang in clusters of 3 from one stalk, 3 to 4 inches long. The Very small female flowers grow in clusters of 2 to 5 near the tip of the twig.
Fruit: The fruit of the mockernut is a 1 to 2 inch long nut that is thick-shelled and round or pear-shaped. The nut is green at first, turning brown as it gets older. At maturity, the sides split apart so that there are four pieces of thick husk surrounding the seed.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
Several other plants on our list also have alternate, pinnately-compound leaves.

 

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