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Mockernut Hickory Carya alba (Carya tomentosa)


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Mockernut Hickory, leaf
credit: K. Bischof, North Carolina State Parks

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Family: Juglandaceae, Walnut view all from this family

Description Carya tomentosa is the most abundant of the hickories. It is a long lived, sometimes reaching the age of 500 years, straight-growing hickory, common in the eastern half of the U.S. Species name comes from the Latin word tomentum, meaning "covered with dense short hairs," referring the the underside of the leaves and helping identify the species. Also called the White Hickory due to the light color of the wood. The common name "Mockernut" comes from the large thick-shelled fruit with very small kernels of meat inside.

Mockernut hickory, a true hickory, grows from Massachusetts and New York west to southern Ontario, southern Michigan, and northern Illinois; then to southeastern Iowa, Missouri, and eastern Kansas, south to eastern Texas and east to northern Florida. This species is not present in New Hampshire and Vermont. Mockernut hickory is most abundant southward through Virginia, North Carolina and Florida where it is the most common of the hickories. It is also abundant in the lower Mississippi Valley and grows largest in the lower Ohio River Basin and in Missouri and Arkansas. The climate where mockernut hickory grows is usually humid.

In the north, mockernut hickory is found on drier soils of ridges and hillsides and less frequently on moist woodlands and alluvial bottoms. The species grows and develops best on deep, fertile soils. In the Cumberland Mountains and hills of southern Indiana, it grows on dry sites such as south and west slopes or dry ridges. Mockernut grows in Alabama and Mississippi on sandy soils with shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and loblolly pine (P taeda).

Habitat Canyons & valleys, Watersides (fresh).

Range Southeast, Florida, Texas, Plains, Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic.

Comments Carya tomentosa is slow-growing and long-lived. Nearly impossible to transplant because of a large taproot. Difficult to find in commerce. Responds best in sunny, fertile sites. Nuts present a problem in manicured landscapes. Stressed trees are subject to hickory bark beetle.

Exposure Preference Sun to partial sun.

Native Distribution Massachusetts & New York to c. Illinois, s.e. Iowa, Missouri & e. Kansas, s. to e. Texas & n. Florida

Site Preference Dry, upland forests & ridges

Soil Preference Dry, sandy to mesic, rich soils. pH 6-6.5.

Wildlife Value Serves as a primary host for some magnificent moths, including the luna, funeral dagger, and giant regal.