In Bloom: Pignut Hickory

Pignut Hickory. Anne Holmes, illustrator

Pignut Hickory. Anne Holmes, illustrator

Carya glabra was commonly called pignut hickory in colonial times because of the consumption of the small nuts by hogs. Early settlers also called it broom hickory because they made brooms from the saplings. Other uses for this strong wood include wheels, tool handles, ladders, furniture, skis and firewood. This medium to large deciduous tree that grows 50’–80’ is the most common hickory in the Appalachians.

Yellowish-green flowers bloom in April and May. The male flowers form drooping catkins about 3” long and the female flowers become nuts in the fall. These nuts are usually bitter and unpalatable to humans, but they are a source of food for squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, southern flying squirrels, grey foxes and black bears. The nuts are occasionally eaten by birds, including wild turkeys, crows, pheasants, White- breasted Nuthatches and grosbeaks. Another reason to plant this tree in your yard is because it serves as the host plant for the banded hairstreak butterfly and many moths. Pignut hickories grow best in rich, medium well-drained, moist soil in full sun.

The Cherokee used the oil extracted from the nuts as a pain reliever, laxative, liver function aid and a dermatological aid. They also used the wood to make bows and arrows.

Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens

Native Conifers of WNC

Saturday, October 5, 1–4 p.m.

In this program, the unique characteristics, ecosystem niches, stressors and current status of native conifers in Western North Carolina will be discussed. A short indoor presentation will be followed by a Gardens tour of conifers, which will be identified and discussed during the walk. Be prepared for whatever elements we may encounter while outside. Jason Rodrigue has degrees in environmental biology and resource management. He is a US Forest Service forester and silviculturist. Rodrigue’s work includes management of forest communities such as Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests to maintain and improve their health, enhance habitats, restore and protect desired conditions and supply resources to local economies. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay by calling 828.252.5190. Cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members

Fall Bird Walk

Sunday, October 13, 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Merrill Gilfillan, a longtime birder and writer, will lead an easy, early morning bird walk in the Gardens. As we look for, listen to and enjoy the birds, we’ll learn to recognize their songs and calls. Field guides are helpful, but not required. Bring binoculars if you have them. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay by calling 828.252.5190. Cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.

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