Carya tomentosa is a tree to 24 m tall, 60 cm dbh (Petrides 1988), lives ca 200 yrs; slow growing; bark ridged, hard, tight, old bark deeply furrowed; taprooted, roots associated with ectomycorrhizal fungi (Decker and Boerner 1997); winter buds to 2.5 cm long, dark outer scales dropping in Autumn leaving bud wooly, gray, often wider than twig; twigs wooly; growth pattern strictly determinate (Marks 1973; Gargiullo personal observation).
Leaves alternate, to 38 cm long, pinnate, leaflets 7-9, brownish-wooly-hairy below, terminal leaflet widest above middle, very fragrant when crushed; leaves expand mid-late May; winter plant leafless 166 days (Britton 1874).
Flowers monoecious; male (staminate) catkins in dangling clusters, female (pistillate) few together at ends of twigs; wind pollinated; blooms May.
Fruit to 5 cm, round, slightly 4-ribbed, husk to 0.6 cm thick, splitting to base, nut to 3 cm, 4-angled, base rounded, Sept.-Oct.; seeds dispersed Sept.-Dec. by gravity and mammals that bury nuts. Seeds must overwinter to germinate. Nuts eaten by many mammals and some birds; jays, crows, pheasants (Martin, et al., 1951).
Wetland status: FACU-.
Frequency in New York City: Frequent.
Habitat: Upland moist to dry forests. Soil pH 4.7-6.9 (USDA, NRCS 2010). Found in forest soil pH 5.0 (Gargiullo unpublished data). Rather intolerant of shade, index 2-4. Intolerant of flooding, salt, compaction.
Notes: Flowers and bark eaten by a few birds and mammals (Martin, et al., 1951).Very susceptible to fire (Hightshoe 1988). Young trees stump sprout if cut. Attacked by same fungi and insects as other hickories.