6 Hickory Tree Varieties That Grow in Parts of Texas

Last Updated:
Photo of author

Environmental Politics & Permaculture Enthusiast

This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase via these links. Learn more.
Home » Texas » 6 Hickory Tree Varieties That Grow in Parts of Texas

Hickory trees are classic southern flora, being native to many southeastern states and thriving throughout the eastern U.S.

Hickory trees can easily be found in the native landscape but they’re also often grown for shade, for their wood, or their nuts!

Hickory trees are diverse and have various benefits for growing and caring for them.

Since Texas spans many USDA Hardiness zones, there are many varieties of Hickory trees that can grow in the state.

Most Hickory trees will grow well in northern and central Texas but the lower USDA Hardiness zones in Texas are often too hot for these trees.

Hickory trees are of the Carya genus, which includes many different species, but in this article, I’ll introduce six species that are super common in Texas.

6 Varieties of Hickory Trees Growing in Texas

1. Black Hickory (Carya texana)

Black Hickory is a species native to Texas, which is why it’s crowned “texana.” These trees can be found all over the state, as they’re well-acclimated to many kinds of growing conditions.

Black Hickory trees can grow in almost all regions of the state, except for the far south where the weather is too hot and dry. Otherwise, they’re a staple Texan tree!

They’re not only common in our landscapes, but also in our cuisine- hickory-smoked meats are central in Texas barbecue.

Black Hickory is the main tree that’s used when smoking meats with hickory wood, infusing them with a deep, smokey and earthy flavor.

Black Hickory trees produce a nut that ripens in the fall. It’s edible and apparently pretty sweet, although some still find it bitter. Black Hickory nuts are high in fats and protein and are a great source of local food!

  • Other Common Names: Texas Hickory
  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Average Size at Maturity: 60-75 ft tall by 30-50 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

2. Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

Pecan Tree
Image by Katja Schulz via Flickr

While all Hickory species are nut trees, the Pecan nut is obviously the most well known.

Pecan is indeed a type of Hickory tree, although it was hybridized with a Walnut tree for a sweeter and fuller nut.

Pecan trees can be found all over the state, growing both as landscaping in yards and parks or grown in orchards for its nuts.

Pecan trees mostly just need rich soil to thrive, so they grow in many regions. In fact, they’re so abundant- and their nuts so loved- that Pecan trees are the official state tree of Texas!

Because the nuts have become so popular, there are now several kinds of Pecan trees that are grown throughout the state.

So, their nut shape and taste as well as how the tree looks all vary so much depending on what variety it is.

  • Other Common Names: Pecan Hickory, Hardy Pecan, Carya Pecan
  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 ft tall by 40-70 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)

Bitternut Hickory
Image by Leonora Ellie Enking via Flickr

Bitternut Hickory is another species that’s very common in Texas, especially in the wet woodlands and floodplains of the southeast.

These trees grow well in moist soil and humid conditions, so the heavy rains and thick air of eastern TX are ideal.

These trees are tall and columnar, with an oval-shaped canopy. They have light green leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall before they drop.

Their bark is grayish-brown and is slightly rough.

As their name suggests, the nut from Bitternut Hickories is super bitter and is considered unpalatable, though it is edible.

Apparently it’s so bitter that even the squirrels don’t pick up these nuts!

Bitternut Hickory is the shortest-living species of Carya– only living for about 200 years.

Although it’s not grown for its nuts, these trees attract lots of beautiful moths and are great shade trees.

  • Other Common Names: Swamp Hickory, Pig Hickory, Pignut, White Hickory, Bitter Walnut
  • Growing Zones: 4-9
  • Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall by 30-50 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

4. Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra)

Pignut Hickory
Image by Plant Image Library via Flickr

Pignut Hickories are slightly smaller than most other Hickory trees but are otherwise very similar to the other species.

They’re equally as low-maintenance and thrive in wet and humid conditions.

They also have edible but very bitter nuts, eaten as a last resort by indigenous people in this region.

Pignut Hickory trees grow straight up with an oval-shaped canopy. Their bark is more gray than other species.

The biggest distinguishing factor for Pignut Hickories is their leaves: they’re burgundy-red when they first emerge in Spring.

The leaves turn to dark green throughout the Summer before fading to yellow for the Fall.

The wood of these trees is very heavy and strong, so it’s often used for construction or building agricultural tools. Pignut Hickory is also a great shade tree.

  • Other Common Names: Sweet Pignut Hickory, Coast Pignut Hickory, Broom Hickory, Red Hickory, Switch Hickory
  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall by 30-40 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Shagbark Hickory
Image by Plant Image Library via Flickr

Shagbark Hickory gets its name from its bark which peels off in large flakes, making the tree look shaggy!

There are other Hickory species that have flaking bark and look similar but Carya ovata has the most dramatic bark.

Its bark is gray-brown and is the most distinct feature. Although, these trees also tend to be wider than other species.

Shagbark Hickory leaves are dark green and turn yellow or orange-brown in the Fall.

It pays off to learn the identifying traits of these trees because their nuts are said to be one of the best native nuts in North America!

These nuts are naturally very sweet and slightly creamy, loved equally by humans and wildlife.

Along with its tasty nuts, Shagbark Hickory wood is very strong and is often used for furniture building.

It’s also a great tree for shade, because of its height and it’s so easy to grow.

  • Other Common Names: Shell-bark Hickory, Carolina Hickory, Scaly Bark Hickory, Upland Hickory, Shellbark
  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Average Size at Maturity: 70-80 ft tall by 50-70 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

6. Water Hickory (Carya aquatica)

Water Hickory
Image by William Ned Friedman via Flickr

Water Hickory is another aptly named Hickory species- a species that thrives in swamps and can grow with its roots directly in water.

It’s native to the coastal climates of the southeastern U.S. and mostly only grows in eastern TX.

These trees aren’t usually grown in landscaping because they absorb so much water, but they do grow commonly in the wilderness.

Water Hickory is also a tall and vertical tree, with an open and rounded canopy like the other species.

It has gray-brown bark with a slight red tint- the twigs are clearly red- that also flakes off in large plates like the Shagbark Hickory.

Water Hickory nuts also have a reddish tint. Their nuts are a bit flatter than most Hickory nuts and are quite bitter, although wildlife seem to like them.

  • Other Common Names: Bitter Pecan
  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 ft tall by 50-70 ft wide
  • Season: Fall

Comparing Texas Hickory Tree Varieties

VarietyDescriptionGrowing ZonesAverage Size at Maturity
Black HickoryNative to Texas, Black Hickory is adaptable to various conditions except the far south.5-960-75 ft tall x 30-50 ft wide
PecanPecan, the state tree of Texas, is a type of Hickory hybridized with a Walnut for sweeter nuts.5-970-100 ft tall x 40-70 ft wide
Bitternut HickoryCommon in southeast Texas, Bitternut Hickory thrives in moist, humid conditions.4-950-80 ft tall x 30-50 ft wide
Pignut HickoryPignut Hickory is slightly smaller than other varieties, thriving in wet, humid conditions.5-950-80 ft tall x 30-40 ft wide
Shagbark HickoryShagbark Hickory is distinguished by its flaking bark and wide shape.4-870-80 ft tall x 50-70 ft wide
Water HickoryIt has a tall, vertical shape with an open canopy, and its nuts are bitter but liked by wildlife.4-870-100 ft tall x 50-70 ft wide

An Underestimated Cultural Icon

Hickory trees play a significant role in Texan culture: our state tree, the Pecan tree, is a hickory; Pecan nuts are widely used in the state; and hickory-smoked meats are iconic Texas foods.

Plus, many pieces of furniture, agricultural tools, and small buildings are constructed with Hickory wood.

Although Hickory trees are not super well-known, we eat from, cook with, and build out of these trees!

And many of us, maybe unknowingly, have spent many afternoons relaxing in the shade of these trees.

By learning to identify or, better yet, growing a Hickory tree you’re not just interacting with a magnificent tree, but connecting with Texan culture!

Related Articles:

Photo of author

Peyton Warmack-Chipman

Environmental Politics & Permaculture Enthusiast

Peyton considers trees not just as plants that provide shade or yummy fruits, but as necessary for a healthy life and community. Peyton has done most of her research on environmental politics, but recently has shifted her focus towards actual agricultural practices, learning about ideas like agroforestry, food forests, and permaculture gardening. She's most often in the kitchen whipping something up, but otherwise can be found on long bike rides or doing research.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.