Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), named after the heavy hammer (moker in Dutch) required to crack the heavy shell and remove the tasty nutmeat.
Carya tomentosa, (Mockernut hickory, mockernut, white hickory, whiteheart hickory, hognut, bullnut) is a tree in the Juglandaceae or Walnut family. The most abundant of the hickories, common in the eastern half of the US, it is long lived, sometimes reaching the age of 500 years. A straight-growing hickory, a high percentage of its wood is used for products where strength, hardness, and flexibility are needed. The wood makes an excellent fuelwood, as well.
The species’ name comes from the Latin word tomentum, meaning “covered with dense short hairs,” referring to the underside of the leaves which help identify the species. Also called the White Hickory due to the light color of the wood, the tree’s common name of “Mockernut” comes from the large, thick-shelled fruit with very small kernels of meat inside.
The nut is distinctly four-angled with a reddish-brown, very hard shell 5 to 6 mm (0.20 to 0.23 in) thick containing a small edible kernel. The Mockernut hasn’t been a popular food nut since early colonization of its territory, and is generally consumed by animals in its natural habitat.
The seed is dispersed from September through December. Mockernut hickory requires a minimum of 25 years to reach commercial seed-bearing age. Optimum seed production occurs from 40 to 125 years, and the maximum age listed for commercial seed production is 200 years.
Good seed crops occur every 2 to 3 years with light seed crops in intervening years. Approximately 50 to 75 percent of fresh seed will germinate. Fourteen mockernut hickory trees in southeastern Ohio produced an average annual crop of 6,285 nuts for 6 years; about 39 percent were sound, 48 percent aborted, and 13 percent had insect damage.
Mockernut hickory produces one of the heaviest seeds of the hickory species; cleaned seeds range from 70 to 250 seeds/kg (32 to 113/lbs). Seed is disseminated mainly by gravity and wildlife, particularly squirrels. Birds also help disperse seed. Wildlife such as squirrels and chipmunks often bury the seed at some distance from the seed-bearing tree.