Growing a Shag Bark Hickory from Seed

althea_gwMay 10, 2014

Hi. Last summer I gathered a pocket full of hickory nuts that had fallen from a neighbors tree to plant in our yard. I read they have spotty germination, so I planted several. I covered he spot where I most wanted a Shag Bark to grow with chicken wire to keep squirrels out. Some other creature burrowed underneath the wire and today I found one of the two nuts I planted was missing. I looked at the one that is left and didn't see any signs of growth. Then I gently squeezed the shell and half of it broke off. I found the nut is still intact so I re-buried it.

I haven't seen any signs of tree growth in the other spots where I planted nuts. I also kept a couple of nuts un-planted and left them on the 3-season porch for cold treatment then, a few weeks ago planted them in a pot inside. There is no sign of growth yet.

Is it typical for hickory's to take a long time to come up in the spring? How long should I wait before just getting an established Shag Bark from a grower? I'd rather grow one from seed to avoid the tap root problem.

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After three weeks in a warm porch, my Shagbark Hickories are just starting to grow. Bitternut Hickory started at the same time are 10 days ahead. I tested the nuts last fall and 50% were 'mouldy'. I'm only expecting 50% germination.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Way too early to give up on hickory germination in zn 4 MN. Give it another month!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 9:34PM
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Smivies, how do you test for mouldiness? I haven't heard about that potential problem.

Thanks j0nd03 for the vote for longer term patience!

I have one more nut left to plant whose shell was broken in half. I think I'll try that one in a protected pot outside. I may have a Shag Bark Hickory forest yet!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 7:40AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I completely second j0nd03's knowledge. I have tons of shagbarks that haven't come up yet that were greenhouse sown and are now outside in my shade house. Of all the 'hickory' I have only recently began seeing germination on a few shellbark's and nearly all my pecans have not popped. It may take another month, indeed, for you althea.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Thanks for your report Dax. Please post back to the thread when yours start coming up.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 10:27AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Will do.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 12:22PM
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I gathered 60+ nuts last fall...some to grow, some to eat. I had told my family that they were much like Pecans and they told me to prove it. After an hour, I managed to crack 30 nuts and remove the tiny broken pieces of meat from the cavities in the shell. About 1/2 of the nuts were atrophied and mouldy. I expect that will be reflected in the remaining nuts I'm trying to germinate.

As for eating Shagbark Hickory nuts again...probably not. They were tasty but the work is ridiculous.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 10:36PM
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Ha Smivies, I gave up after cracking only 2 Shag Bark nuts to eat! Those I did crack looked good, but a bear to get out. They were as difficult as Black Walnuts. I want to grow one for diversity in tree species in our yard. This is my first choice because they great looking trees. Edible nuts would be wonderful, but not essential. By the time a tree grows to productive maturity, I'll most likely be under it as fertilizer.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 9:29AM
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Not all shagbark or shellbark hickories are 'created equal'.
Some are much better, from a crackability standpoint than others. Shell structure is important.
I have some with shells no thicker than many pecans - but internal structure traps kernel, so I mostly get pieces. But, other selections have an open central cavity with minimal to no internal ridges, so they crack out predominantly halves and quarters. If you've got access to 'good' ones, there's not a whole lot more work involved than cracking/picking out pecans - though, even with the thinner-shelled selections, you still need something a bit more substantial than the typical pecan cracker.

If I'm gonna just sit down and eat nuts - I prefer pecan. But, for cooking, hickory beats pecan hands-down. If you've ever had a hickory pie, pecan just doesn't cut it anymore.

Althea, seed-grown shagbarks are SLOW growers for the first few years. They put most of their energy into growing an extensive taproot system - a 6" tall seedling, skinnier than a pencil may have a taproot 3+ ft long, as big around as a broom handle. Time to bearing for a seedling is anyone's guess; you might not live long enough. Time to bearing will be cut in half, if you purchase & plant a grafted selection - and nut characteristics will be a known quality.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:42AM
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Lucky p, thanks for the link. I read your site last summer when I was researching Shag Barks. I realize they are slow growers. That is fine since I'm thinking about long-term for the tree, not me. If any come up, I'll be able to enjoy nurturing it's growth for as long as possible, but will likely duck out by the time the nut production starts becoming a mess to clean up. :)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 6:31PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I had a few crack, finally. It's going to be weeks yet I believe until the majority decide to come up.



    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:01AM
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