Herb: Shagbark Hickory

Latin name: Carya ovata

Synonyms: Carya alba, Hicoria ovata, Juglans ovata

Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Medicinal use of Shagbark Hickory:

The fresh small shoots have been steamed to make an inhalant for treating headaches. A decoction of the bark has been taken internally to treat rheumatism and also used as a poultice on rheumatic joints.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Dry upland slopes, rich deep moist soils and well drained soils of lowland and valleys.

Edible parts of Shagbark Hickory:

Seed - raw or cooked and used in pies, cakes, bread etc. Sweet and delicious. The seed can be ground into a meal and used to thicken soups etc. A nut milk can be prepared from the seed and this is used as a butter on bread, vegetables etc. The shell is normally thick and hard but in selected cultivars it can be thin. The seed ripens in late autumn and can be stored for up to 2 years in a cool cellar. The seed is up to 4cm long. Sap - sweet. It is tapped in spring and can be made into a syrup.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark. Wood - close-grained, tough, elastic, heavy and very hard. It weighs 52lb per cubic foot. An excellent quality wood, it is used for tool handles, wheel spokes, sporting goods, baskets etc. The wood is an excellent fuel, burning well and giving off a lot of heat. It produces an excellent charcoal.

Propagation of Shagbark Hickory:

Seed - requires a period of cold stratification. It is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be kept moist (but not wet) prior to sowing and should be sown in a cold frame as soon as possible. Where possible, sow 1 or 2 seeds only in each deep pot and thin to the best seedling. If you need to transplant the seedlings, then do this as soon as they are large enough to handle, once more using deep pots to accommodate the tap root. Put the plants into their permanent positions as soon as possible, preferably in their first summer, and give them some protection from the cold for at least the first winter. Seed can also be sown in situ so long as protection is given from mice etc and the seed is given some protection from cold (a plastic bottle with the top and bottom removed and a wire mesh top fitted to keep the mice out is ideal)

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry upland slopes, rich deep moist soils and well drained soils of lowland and valleys.

Known hazards of Carya ovata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.