Mockernut Hickories Gettin’ Down


With a back injury that is on the mend I took myself for my first long walk recently. The landscape has changed. The leaves really came down after some freezes and most of those remaining had turned from brilliant to brown. Along with the leaves on the side of the road were about a bazillion Mockernut Hickory nuts. Dropped ’em like it’s hot. I mean cold.


This deep nut pile extended for about 15 feet around 3 trees. To confirm this Mockernut Tree ID, or Carya tomentosa, I got a little excited to see some old friends. This tree has some of the most obvious buds out there, big, hard, pointy, and white (that’s what she my teacher said). I first got to know them last winter and man do I remember the shock of staring at a tree wondering if it was a Hickory and then bam! seeing this crazy obvious bud that I had just learned about. It was the first time that I wasn’t left to wonder if I had gotten it right.


But I was fairly confident about these trees’ true identity before I trespassed onto the edge of this field to take a look. These nuts have very thick shells, which have burst open and released their hard delicious fruits previously kept tightly under wraps. Now you can see that the shell around those bad boys in the first photo is not some near-paper thin sheath like you might expect from a Pignut or Bitternut Hickory. It’s a grande.

The bursting seems to have just taken place then, along the time of the leaves turning from schoolbus yellow (as my tree class called their color) to crinkly brown. A couple were still on the tree.


They look like flowers!

By the way, the latin name of this tree, Carya (hickory) tomentosaΒ (hairy) comes from the fuzzy compound leaves that are quite broad compared to the Pignut and the Bitternut but also are unique for being so fuzzed particularly on the underside. This can be detected on fall leaves as well, though not so well on the winter leaves, if you can find them.

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Filed under Plants, Plants: In the Wild

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