The Shellbark hickory or carya laciniosa is a rare tree to find in modern times in the forest. When they can be found they reside in the midwestern United States in the Ohio River region, along the Mississippi in Missouri and Illinois, and along the Wabash River in Indiana and Ohio. The shellbark needs a deep, moist, fertile soil to grow in and needs a lot of moisture to live. Its bark gives a very ragged appearance. It thrives in river bottomlands that are inundated for a few weeks out of each year. They are typically found living by themselves as opposed to living in stands of the same species. The shellbark can grow up to 120 feet tall.
Like other hickory trees the shellbark is a slow growing and long living tree. It’s large taproot prevents the tree from living in a habitated area. It produces a sweet, edible nut that is a favorite of many forest animals and birds. The nut, the largest of all hickory nuts, though is very difficult to crack but the inside is well worth it. Plantations have been established to harvest the nuts but whether they can remain commercially viable is yet to be seen.
The wood is extremely tough yet flexible making it ideal for use with anything that needs strength. It is ideal for use with tools like hammers and axes, for furniture, sporting goods, and drum sticks. It is also used for fuelwood and for charcoal. While the tree is widely spread across the United States it is not a common tree, making this a rare wood that in many cases can only come from a reclaimed barn.