The Pignut Hickory grows throughout the eastern and central US, and is particularly beautiful in the fall, when its leaves turn yellow, and in late spring, when winter buds open. The bud scales fold back like a petal. Flowers give way to rounded nuts, but only after the tree matures, at around 25 years of age. The nutritious but hard-to-open nuts attract squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, black bears, and other wildlife. Ever wonder who might be dropping hickory nuts in the dark? Flying squirrels, who have noctirnal habits, and love to eat the nuts.
Early American settlers used this tree in many ways. They fed the nuts to the hogs, which inspired the name Pignut Hickory. They split saplings to make brooms, why some called it Broom Hickory.
Since its wood is heavy and tough, yet flexible and shock-resistant, it was used for yokes, wheels, ladders, and furniture, and even for auto parts in the early days of the car industry. Now it is often used in sporting goods such as skis, and it continues to be used for tool handles.
Hickory wood also has low heat conductivity, which made it a favorite for wagon wheels and sulkies for harness racing. It was also invaluable to pioneers as a source of fuel, producing more BTUs than coal.