Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis)

Plantae>Magnoliophyta>Magnoliopsida>Juglandales>Juglandaceae>Carya myristiciformis (Michaux f.) Elliott

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) leaves

Nutmeg Hickory is the rarest of all the species of Carya worldwide, rare throughout its range. This large tree of calcareous bottomlands is known from only one location in North Carolina, its northeastern limit.

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 4/14/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) flowers

Nutmeg Hickory flowers in early spring, as the leaves are emerging

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 4/14/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) leaf

The leaf undersides are covered with silvery-golden scales. The scales start out as silvery, becoming bronzy as the leaves mature.

The most similar species is Sand Hickory (C. pallida), which has silvery-tan scales, fragrant leaves, slightly larger nuts (3-5 cm long vs 2-3 cm for Nutmeg Hickory), and tends to grow in acidic upland soils. The leaves of Nutmeg Hickory are not particularly fragrant. The bud scales of Nutmeg Hickory are valvate, while those of Sand Hickory are imbricate. Both species tend to have 7-9 leaflets. The more closely related Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis), which lacks the lepidote scales and has yellowish buds.

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 4/14/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) lepidote scales

Detail of the lepidote scales, showing the silvery scales of a very young leaf.

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 4/14/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) leaf undersides

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 8/12/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) lepidote scales

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 8/12/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) buds

The buds are valvate (scales not overlapping) but may appear somewhat imbricate (scales overlapping).

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 8/12/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) nuts

The husks are keeled or winged. The specific epithet myristiciformis refers to the small, round seeds (nuts), which are similar in shape to those of nutmeg (genus Myristica).

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 8/12/07.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis) bark

The bark is tight with a diamond-shaped pattern of ridges.

Rocky Point, Pender Co., NC 4/14/07.

More information:
Flora of North America
NPIN
US Forest Service Silvics Manual USDA PLANTS database

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of North Carolina

cwcook@duke.edu

All photographs and text ©2011 by Will Cook unless otherwise indicated.