The tree discussed here is specifically a shagbark-hickory, one of the many subspecies of hickory.
Bark: Hickory trees have plates of vertical, rectangular bark. As the tree ages, the bark starts to lift at the bottom of each plate, somewhat resembling a piñata, hence the name shagbark-hickory.
Leaves: The leaves are very distinct with as many as 5-15 leaves growing along one stock. They grow in pairs opposite to each other with one leaf sticking off the end. The edges are sharply pointed around each leaf like a saw blade, turning bright yellow to brown in autumn.
Fruit: Hickory nuts start out green and turn brown as they ripen. There is a seam around the middle of the nut with white or tan meat inside. The husk separates into four parts at maturity. The seed is sweet and ripens in the fall.
We rate hickory trees as a second class tree based on its current demand in markets. The wood is very hard and springy. It is commonly used to make flooring, furniture, tool handles and sporting goods. It is also excellent for firewood, charcoal and smoking meats.
Benefit to Forest:
The nuts are an important food source for deer, birds and raccoons. In fact, they are arguably the favorite nut of a squirrel. The shaggy plates of the bark provides occasional cover for bats and frogs in the summer.
There are 10 species of hickories found in the midwest and 13 in North America. Other common species, aside from shagbark-hickory, found in Indiana include Bitternut-hickory, Mockernut-hickory, red-hickory, pignut-hickory, pale hickory and black hickory. Several features are unique to hickories that help aid in their recognize. Firstly, the nuts have a 4-part husk that looks different from other nuts. Furthermore, hickories often have leaf scars which are large and shaped like a shield.