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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dan's mystery tree

I wonder if you remember my pal Dan and his mystery tree. Well, he's been anxiously awaiting my thoughts on what it could be, and here they are. My initial guess was a hickory and I'm pretty darn sure I'm right. The next question is, what kind of hickory. There are dozens of hickory trees.




The shape of the tree helped a bit, but Dan gave the size of his tree as being far smaller, only 30-40 feet high and about as wide, than the hickory tree I first thought this was, namely the shagbark, Botanically, Carya ovata. The leaves gave me no clue. They all looked too similar to distinguish just from photos. So, I sent the poor man out to get a shot of the bark. He stomped his foot and moaned and groaned, (Yes, his wife told me he actually did!) for it was raining outside, but eventually he went outside, braved the weather and got the shot for me. What a trooper, huh?

The nut, however, now that was tricky. There didn't really seem to be a perfect match. So, we had to rely on the bark. After I saw the bark, this threw out my previous guess completely out the window.The bark of a shagbark hickory is...well, shaggy looking. It kind of peels away from the trunk of mature trees. This trunk was too smooth. They also happen to grow very tall, up to 90 feet high. That would be way taller than this one, although, we don't quite know how old this baby is, do we? Could it be at maturity already? Maybe, but maybe not.


After I saw the bark, this threw out my previous guess completely out the window.The bark of a shagbark hickory is...well, shaggy looking. It kind of peels away from the trunk of mature trees. This trunk was too smooth. They also happen to grow very tall, up to 90 feet high. That would be way taller than this one, although, we don't quite know how old this baby is, do we? Could it be at maturity already? Maybe, but maybe not.

My next guess was Carya myristiciformis, the Nutmeg Hickory. This is quite common in the Carolinas, grows relatively small and like swampy or wet regions. That is why it is also called swamp hickory or bitter water hickory. The nut and the leaves look about right too.

So, that's my guess, Dan, the Swamp Hickory.

2 comments:

  1. Swamp Hickory? There isn't any swamps anywhere near me. Just kidding. I did read it grows in most clay soil that drains well and that is exactly where it is. Since there isn't any tree anywhere in the area like it I think it was transplanted here long ago. The land used to be a big farm and the lot we have used to have a farm house that was completely covered in kudzu. I did read it is a sweet nut that the squirrels love and that can explain why they disappear all summer till the nuts start dropping. I also read that is a pretty rare tree to start with. I've never seen any seedlings started from all the nuts that are dropped anywhere in the area.

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  2. The fact that no seedlings emerge from the nuts and you say there are not many like this around--as it was planted from elsewhere, makes me think my guess is right. I just wish you liked it better! LOL

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