If you want a large shade tree that's going to last then you cant go wrong with a hickory. These majestic trees make up a lot of native forests in Eastern United States. Hickories have an average life span of about 300 years and are very tough trees. The produce deep tap roots which keeps them well rooted so they are very unlikely to fall making them much safer around homes. An added advantage is they produce edible nuts. Some are sweet and juicy others more bitter but choose the right one and you have food falling from above. The Nussbaumerii Hickory produces some of the largest nuts of any hickory tree each nut being 2.5 inches long (6.3 cm) and 1.5 inches (3.8cm) wide. Hickory trees begin life by growing down, not up. The roots form first with little to show on top for the first year at least. Because of this Hickory trees are rarely found for sale as trees as the need deep root pots and initially shows little top growth. The best way to grow one of these trees is to start it yourself from seed.
Just like other hickories Carya x nussbaumeri has characteristic leaves they are compound meaning each leaf is made up of many smaller leaflets. There is a stiff central stem and pairs of leaflets attached to it with a single leaflet at the top. Leaflets are long and narrow 'lanceolate' with sharp pointed ends and slightly pointed at the base where they attach to the main leaf stem. Fine serrated edges with larger leaflets towards the end of the leave and smaller at the base. The whole leaf is about 14 inches (35.5 cm) long the leaves tend to turn brown/black with yellow tones in fall rather than the golden color some hickories display.
The tree tends to be slightly shorter than other varieties with a broad crown and wide branches. It has fairly strong wood with one major trunk with grayish brown bark that develops deep ridges as it ages and eventually will begin to peel. Trees are very long lived with an average lifespan of 300 years.
The tree has separate male and female flowers on the same tree which bloom in spring after the young leaves have unfolded. The male flowers are tiny but make up for it in numbers being produced in long thin drooping catkins that are greenish yellow each being about 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) long. the female flowers are far less numerous but each is larger green and difficult to see as they are small 'bowls' designed to catch the wind blown pollen from the males they are functional not beautiful.
After the flowers the nuts begin to form. This is where most hickories can be told apart. There are two major groups those with more oblong nuts, the pecan group and those with rounder nuts, the pignut group. All nuts have a thick outer husk that needs to be removed before the nut can be accessed. All hickory nuts are edible but some are sweet and others bitter.
Growing Hican - Nussbaumerii Hickory (Carya Nussbaumerii) from Seed.
All Hickory nuts need a period of stratification before they will germinate. All our seeds are kept cold until they are shipped to you so some of the process is already begun.
Once you receive your seeds put them in the refrigerator immediately. When you are ready to begin take them out and soak them in water overnight to allow them to swell. Put each nut in a plastic bag and some moist potting mix. Seal the bag and return it to the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks more if you have the time longer than 120 days is not recommended. Ensure they are in an area that is not disturbed. We recommend a box at the back of the refrigerator that you label so other don't accidently remove it.
At the end of your desire time period carefully remove the bag and plant the seed in a deep pot. Choose the deepest pot you can find at least 6-8 inches (15.2-20.3 cm) diameter more if you can. If you cant find deep pots and only have a couple of nuts to germinate you can make your own deep ones by duck taping several pots together end to end. Make sure you have somewhere you can support the pots when they are completed.
Why do this? Hickory trees make VERY long taproots that they don't like being disturbed. We recommend you make a pot that is as long (or deep depending on how you want to consider the dimension) as you are willing to dig a hole. If your soil is difficult to dig that may not be very deep but it needs to be at least three feet. Create a pot that will support that length of root and something to support the strange bottom heavy pot. Then plant your seed. Hickories will produces roots well before they produces shoots so you need to keep a careful eye on your pot for root development.
Place the pot somewhere where it will get some sun best is morning or evening but shade the rest of the day but is also fairly warm. A patio or deck area is good or against a wall on the east or west side of your home, if it gets sun there. Hickories will usually germinate when temperatures reach about 70 F (21 C) and begin to grow their roots. Keep it watered so the soil throughout is moist but not wet.
The moment you see roots beginning to show at the holes in the bottom of the pot is the time to plant your tree. Hickories do not like their roots disturbed so it is important you are careful when you depot the plant.
Dig a hole the same length as the pot you created. Use a tape measure to ensure that the hole is indeed the right depth before you attempt to remove the tree from the pot. If you are luckily the tree will slide out the top of the pot but you may need to cut the pot open along one side to remove it. Carefully lower the tree into the hole keeping as much of the soil from the pot intact as possible. Adding a little compost to the soil you dug out carefully replace it around the seedling. Mark where the tree is planted with a stick, this is especially important if the tree has yet to produce any upper shoots. Water on an occasional basis until the tree is established.
Adding a chicken wire surround around your young seedling is recommended if you live in an area with wildlife as they may attack the young tree.
If planting more than one hickory space them around 30 feet (9 m) apart. These trees grow large and need space to develop effectively.
They need space and sunshine to thrive. Because of their long tap roots you cant move the tree once its in place to consider your location carefully. Do not plant too close to a house, sidewalk or driveway where the developing roots may cause issues. Too close to the house may cause problems when the tree grows and overshadows the house too much. Keep trees at least 30 feet (9 m) from the home more if possible. Hickory trees grow tall and quite quickly to begin with so make sure they are not near power lines or other utility cables.
Hickories do best on well drained soil with lots of organic material, they don't do well in wet conditions.
Once the tree has established its roots deep in the soil it begins to grow upward and can do so at a very rapid rate. All that waiting is finally paying off and your tree can shoot up many feet or meters in the first year. Keep the tree fertilized and place mulch around the base of the tree up to 4 inches (10 cm) deep. This will help to keep weeds controlled and retain moisture in the soil. Place chopped up leaves around the tree base in the winter as mulch and food for next year. Keep mulch at least 6 inches (15.2 cm) from the trunk to prevent rodent damage.
Once your tree is established there is little needs doing. Pruning off lower branches as it grows taller so you can walk beneath it is about all that needs doing.
Rodents are another matter. They may chew out the bark from the lower part of your tree and kill it. This is why we recommend using a rodent guard. Using quarter inch hardware cloth and wrapping it round the base of the tree with about an 2 inches (5 cm) all around to spare makes an effective and inexpensive barrier. Make sure it reaches at least three feet up the tree so they cant stand on their hind legs and attack the bark. This barrier will need increasing as the tree grows so ensure you allow enough overlap that the circle can be made larger as the tree grows. Once the bark of the tree has thickened from its early delicate stage it can be removed, usually 5-6 years.
Some sources state that the trunk can be tapped in spring for sap which is then boiled down to a syrup similar to maple syrup.