Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hickory buds

Every once in a while, we do try to grab just a bit of the beauty that is zooming past us. Yesterday I ran out for a few minutes to take just a few pictures of the hybrid hickory buds. I wanted to send them to Denise, who did such a spectacular job with her illustrations of the hazels. (Incidentally; she was awarded the Silver Gilt Medal at the Royal Horticultural Society art show; which means she now has the very great honor that she may show any of her art at that show for the next 5 years, without submitting it for preliminary approval; a very big deal!)

In spite of these being very hurried pics, a couple of them turned out not awful anyway. So I thought I would let you see another benefit to growing these hybrids; a brief gorgeous bit of nature that few know exists; the slow blossoming-opening of the apical buds of hickories. Click on any of these for a bigger view; and then magnify to see full size images.

Above is what the swollen buds look like just before they break open- furry gold. This one is really worth the click and magnify process to fully appreciate.

These are showing their shagbark and shellbark ancestors; buds of pecans and other hickories are not this showy. At the right stage, some of these trees can look like flowering magnolias; gorgeous, and startling.


  1. Gorgeous Dad, thanks. For those who don't know, this is also the stage at which deer will often take out the growing tip of your little hickory, slowing them way down for the year. Seem to be delicious to them. I don't think I've tried eating them- Dad, have you?

  2. I don't think I've tried these earliest buds. Hm. I HAVE, as you know, tasted many kinds of tree shoots; attempting to understand the browsing preferences of deer. Last time I did a series, I think the time of year was mid June, just a tad more mature. The hickory was by far the most horrific tasting- to the human palate, but the deer obviously have a different set to taste buds. They were eating hickory tips quite regularly. The chestnut tips were much more edible; tasting to me kind of like a pickle.

    So, now I'll have to try these. For those concerned about toxins- the standard process here for an ecologist is to take a small amount, chew a few times, and spit it out. You don't have to swallow to get a start on chemical analysis.

  3. Those are gorgeous -- I guess the deer problem becomes less significant as the hickory gains some height, but would be an issue during establishment. More to think about when establishing a planting.

  4. Would you recommend tree tubes for Hickory in general or just if browsing is of concern? And how tall 5ft? Thanks so much!

  5. Anonymous - I'm afraid we're off the map here again; we just don't know. Most hickories tend to make very little top growth for the first several years. During that time, they're packing sunlight into the roots, almost exclusively. You can tell when they're ready to start making top growth when the apical bud size changes from "normal" to "that bud is huge!".

    What I would really recommend is that you put some of your trees in tubes; and keep some out. That way we'll start to learn something. We've never used tree tubes here on our hickories; but - the deer browse problem on the big planting (8 acres) really did slow them down drastically. The hickories we show off, and which are producing big crops now, all had one year of meticulous egg spray protection. About year 4, if I recall. Most of them were putting out the huge buds at that point; the egg spray let them get up high enough to be past the deer.

    Keep us informed!