Hickory — Trees in the genus Carya (from Ancient Greek kary “nut”) are commonly known as Hickory. The genus includes 17-19 species of deciduous trees with pinnately compound leaves and large nuts. A dozen or so species are native to North America (11–12 in the United States, 1 in Mexico), and 5–6 species from China and Indochina.
Another Asian species, Beaked Hickory, previously listed as Carya sinensis, is now treated in a separate genus Annamocarya, as Annamocarya sinensis.
Hickory flowers are small yellow-green catkins produced in spring. They are anemophilous and self-incompatible. The fruit is a globose or oval nut, 2–5 cm long and 1.5–3 cm diameter, enclosed in a four-valved husk which splits open at maturity. The nut shell is thick and bony in most species, thin in a few, notably C. illinoinensis; it is divided into two halves which split apart when the seed germinates.
Hickory wood is extremely tough, yet flexible, and is valued for tool handles, bows (like yew), wheel spokes, carts, drumsticks, golf club shafts (sometimes still called hickory stick, even though made of steel or graphite), walking canes etc. and for punitive use as a switch or switch (rod) (like hazel), and especially as a cane-like hickory stick in schools. Baseball bats (also used as substitute paddle or even modified for physical punishment) were formerly made of hickory but are now more commonly made of ash. Hickory is also highly prized for wood-burning stoves, because of its high caloric content. Hickory wood is also a preferred type for smoke curing meats. In the Southern US, hickory is popular for cooking barbecue, as hickory grows abundantly in the region, and adds flavor to the meat. Hickory is sometimes used for hardwood flooring due to its durability and character.