November 4th, 2014
Maples usually get top billing in the fall-color department, and I can’t disagree after seeing some of the beauties on display these past couple of weeks.
But this is the first year I really took notice to another tree that hardly anyone mentions on their top fall-foliage list – our native hickory.
I saw one on the way to church last weekend. There it was at the top of an apartment-complex driveway in Lower Allen Twp., literally glowing rich-gold and framed spectacularly by a deep blue sky.
What a specimen it was – every bit as head-turning as a sugar maple or blackgum and just as big at about 50 feet tall.
It was so impressive that I got out of the car to check it out up close and verify what it was. I believe it was a shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), distinctive for its four-winged nuts and shingle-like or shaggy bark (hence the name).
Despite its fall beauty, native origin, ease of growth and tasty nuts, hardly anyone plants a hickory in their yard – or any nut, for that matter.
The very trait that attracts nut-lovers is the same one that repels your typical homeowner – the falling nuts.
Nut-lovers consider hickories a gift of nature that sell for upwards of $20 a pound – when you can even find them. They’re pricey and not widely available in stores because they’re so hard to get out of their shells.
For a homeowner, though, a hickory is considered “messy, “ something to be avoided anywhere near civilization and patios. Gazillions of nuts in their dark hulls can drop over a few-week period, “defiling” the lawn, attracting squirrels and maybe even plunking folks in the head.
So it goes. What’s a plus to one is a negative to another. I won’t condemn you for either point of view. (I can find plenty of other stuff to condemn you for!)