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Publication #ENH280

Carya glabra: Pignut Hickory1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


A North American native, pignut hickory is usually seen at 50 to 65 feet in height with a 30- to 40-foot spread but is capable of slowly reaching 120 feet in the forest. The deciduous, 6- to 12-inchlong leaves create a coarse, oval canopy, and the strong but irregularly spaced branches resist breakage in storms, making it useful as a shade tree. The green fruits are quite bitter and are popular with various forms of wildlife, but not man. Since fruits may damage cars as they fall and people could roll on the fruit and lose their balance, it may be best to locate the tree away from streets, parking lots, and other areas where cars regularly park. It makes a nice shade tree or median strip tree planted on 25- to 30-foot centers and turns a striking bright yellow in the fall.

Figure 1. 

Mature Carya glabra: Pignut Hickory


Ed Gilman

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Carya glabra
Pronunciation: KAIR-ee-uh GLAY-bruh
Common name(s): Pignut Hickory
Family: Juglandaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 5A through 9B (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: shade; specimen
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 50 to 65 feet
Spread: 30 to 40 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: obovate, lanceolate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round, oval
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: green, brown
Fruit characteristics: attracts squirrels/mammals; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: thick
Wood specific gravity: 0.75


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained; occasionally wet
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: tolerant
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Hickory generally grows with one central leader, and branches are well spaced, forming a strong, wide angle with the trunk. The tree lends a coarse texture to the landscape, that contrasts nicely with the smaller-leaved trees, such as the evergreen oaks. This is an under-utilized native tree with potential for much wider use.

Pignut hickory grows best in sun or partial shade on well-drained, acid soils and is very drought-tolerant. Trees will show minor-element deficiencies on alkaline soils. It grows well in sand or clay, sending deep roots down below the trunk in well-drained soil. Hickory wood is versatile and is used for chair legs, tool handles (including axes and hammers), and for smoking meat and fish.

Propagation is by stratified seed or root-sprouts.


Borers, bagworms, and fall webworms, but none are normally serious. Fall webworms can devour large quantities of foliage during the summer and fall, but they cause no lasting damage and control is not needed. Galls are common on the leaves but cause no real damage.

Hickory bark beetle is a problem, particularly during droughts.





This document is ENH280, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.