Hickory and Possumhaw Trees on the Blue Trail
Hickories are our most important native nuts. The hickory tree’s name comes from the Indian name for liquor that was concocted from the shells and kernels. The Indians and colonists used the nuts for food and even tapped the sweet sap in the spring for syrup.
They are slow growing trees, and sometimes reach 250 years old. The shellbark does not produce nuts until they are nearly 80 years old. Wood ducks, ring-necked pheasants, and turkeys compete with humans for nuts. Black bears, deer, raccoons, squirrels and rabbits eat the bark and nuts.
Possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) is either male or female and must be pollinated to create berries. It is easily seen in winter with its many small red, orange, or yellow berries along leafless slender gray twigs. Berries stay until new leaves arrive in spring. Possums, raccoons, other mammals, songbirds and game birds eat the fruit.