Hip to Hickory: Your Guide to Growing Shagbark Success

Table of Contents


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The Shagbark Hickory, with its distinctive shaggy bark and delicious nuts, is a beloved tree for both its ornamental value and practical uses. If you’re interested in growing your own, our complete guide has everything you need to know about planting, caring for, and harvesting this rewarding species.

Benefits of Growing Your Own Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

  • Produces delicious and nutritious nuts
  • Provides shade and shelter for wildlife
  • Wind-resistant and adaptable to various soil types
  • Produces beautiful fall foliage
  • Can be used for lumber and firewood

General Information About Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Plant Family: Juglandaceae (walnut family)
Plant Latin Name: Carya ovata

Plant Variations Available

Shagbark Hickory, also known by its scientific name Carya ovata, is a deciduous tree native to North America. It is named for its shaggy bark, which peels away in long, vertical strips to reveal a lighter-colored wood underneath.


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Shagbark Hickory is a relatively slow-growing tree that can reach heights of up to 80 feet with a spread of 50 feet. It is distinguished by its bright green, pinnate leaves, which turn a golden yellow in the fall. The tree is also notable for its fruit – large, round nuts with thick, hard shells that are a favorite food of woodpeckers, squirrels, and other wildlife.

There are several variations of Shagbark Hickory, each with its own unique characteristics. One of the most popular variations is the ‘Kingnut’ Hickory, which produces large, meaty nuts that are particularly favored by people for cooking and baking. Another variation is the ‘Shellbark’ Hickory, which has a thicker, more pronounced shaggy bark than other varieties.

In addition to its aesthetic and culinary value, Shagbark Hickory wood is also prized for its strength and durability. It is often used in the construction of furniture, flooring, and other wood products. Shagbark Hickory is also used in traditional medicine, where it is believed to have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and digestive properties.

Overall, Shagbark Hickory is a versatile and valuable tree with many uses and variations. Whether you admire it for its beauty, enjoy its fruit, or use its wood for construction, this native North American tree is truly a treasure.

Germinating Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Preferred Zones

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is a tough nut to crack when it comes to finding the best zones for outdoor growing. This deciduous tree hails from the East Coast of North America and has a complex set of environmental requirements that can be hard to meet in certain areas.


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However, with careful consideration of the zones that best suit its needs, you can create a thriving outdoor landscape that’s ripe with shagbark hickory trees. So without further ado, here are the best zones for growing this magnificent tree species:

Zone 4: This is the northernmost region where shagbark hickory can thrive. With its cold winters and moderate summers, this zone provides the perfect balance of temperature and precipitation for this species to grow. Keep in mind, though, that the frost period must end before the leaves emerge, or the tree may not fruit.

Zone 5: Like zone 4, this region is also characterized by cold winters and moderate summers. However, the soil conditions in zone 5 are usually richer, which promotes healthy tree development.

Zone 6: This zone is considered ideal for growing shagbark hickory as it provides an optimal balance of temperature and moisture levels. However, it is important to note that this subtropical zone has a relatively short autumn, which can negatively impact tree growth.

Zone 7: The warm, temperate climate of zone 7 can make it a challenging zone for shagbark hickory growth due to the increased risk of drought and disease. However, proper soil preparation and adequate watering can help ensure healthy tree growth.

In summary, shagbark hickory grows best in zones 4-7, where temperatures range from cold to warm and precipitation is moderate to high. Additionally, these zones must have well-draining soil and sufficient nutrients for optimal tree development. With these factors in mind, you can create a landscape abundant with the beauty and resilience of shagbark hickory trees.

Sowing Instructions

If you’re looking to sow shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), then you’ll want to take some extra care to ensure that your seeds are properly germinated and planted. Here are some of the best methods and procedures for sowing shagbark hickory:

1. Collecting seeds: The first step in any seed-sowing process is to collect enough seeds to work with. Shagbark hickory produces nuts that ripen in the fall, so you’ll want to start collecting them at this time. Be sure to look for healthy, unblemished nuts that are free of cracks or other damage. You can store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to sow them.

2. Preparing the soil: Shagbark hickory seeds prefer well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Mix some compost and sand into the soil to ensure that it is nutrient-rich and well-aerated. The best time to prepare the soil is in the spring, a few weeks before you plan to sow the seeds.

3. Stratification: Shagbark hickory seeds require a period of cold stratification to simulate winter conditions and stimulate germination. To stratify your seeds, place them in a plastic bag with some damp peat moss or vermiculite, sealed and put in the refrigerator for 60-90 days.

4. Planting: Once your seeds have been stratified, you can plant them in the prepared soil. Shagbark hickory seeds should be sown about two inches deep, and about six inches apart to allow for roots to develop without competition. Water them well and keep the soil moist, but not too waterlogged. It’s best to plant shagbark hickory in the spring, after the last major frost.

5. Maintenance: As your shagbark hickory seeds germinate and begin to grow, you’ll need to keep an eye on them and provide proper care. Water them regularly and make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out. Fertilize your seedlings every three weeks with a balanced fertilizer, and prune them once or twice a year to encourage good growth.

By following these methods and procedures, you can successfully sow shagbark hickory and enjoy their beautiful, hardy trees for years to come.

Preparation Advice

If you’re considering growing shagbark hickory, congratulations on choosing a unique and valuable tree species. Here’s what you need to know before getting started:


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Firstly, be aware that shagbark hickory grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It prefers full sun exposure but can tolerate partial shade. Before planting, make sure the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter.

In terms of equipment, you’ll need a shovel, rake, gloves, and possibly a wheelbarrow if you’re planting multiple trees. A soil pH testing kit can also be helpful to ensure the soil is within the ideal range of 5.5 to 6.5.

Once you have your equipment ready, you can start planting. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and loosen the soil around it. Place the root ball in the hole and backfill with soil, gently tamping it down to remove any air pockets.

To ensure the best growth, it’s recommended to fertilize shagbark hickory in the early spring with a slow-release fertilizer. Watering is essential during the first year to establish the tree’s root system, then it can be watered occasionally during dry spells.

In terms of pruning, shagbark hickory doesn’t require much maintenance. However, it’s important to remove any dead or diseased branches to promote healthy growth.

Overall, growing shagbark hickory requires some patience and attention, but the reward of watching it mature into a majestic and unique tree species is well worth the effort.

Germination Tools and Equipment

Congratulations on choosing to germinate your very own Shagbark Hickory tree! This species is known for its hardy, deciduous qualities and the delicious nuts it produces – now let’s make sure you have the right tools to kickstart its growth.


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First things first, you’ll need a reliable germination medium. This can include potting mix, perlite, vermiculite, or just plain old soil. Be sure to dampen it prior to planting your seeds, as hickory seeds like a moist environment in order to germinate successfully.

You’ll also want to have a set of clean gardening tools on hand, including gloves, a trowel, and a watering can. If you’re taking your germination project indoors, consider investing in some grow lights and a humidity dome for optimal conditions.

For specific Shagbark Hickory care, we recommend keeping the temperature between 68-86°F (20-30°C), with consistent moisture levels – but don’t overwater! Once your seedlings have grown a few inches, you can transplant them to a larger container or into your yard, depending on your preference.

Remember, healthy germination doesn’t necessarily require fancy equipment – just a bit of patience, attention, and care. We wish you the best of luck on your journey to growing your very own Shagbark Hickory tree!

Growing Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Light Requirements

Shagbark Hickory, or Carya ovata, is a hardy and resilient tree species that can thrive in a variety of lighting conditions. However, there are certain lighting requirements that are essential for growing healthy Shagbark Hickory trees.


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First and foremost, Shagbark Hickory trees require ample sunlight to grow and develop properly. Ideally, they should be exposed to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. This means that it’s important to plant Shagbark Hickory trees in areas that receive plenty of sunlight, such as open fields or areas where there is minimal shade or obstruction.

In addition, while Shagbark Hickory trees can tolerate some shade, it’s important to avoid planting them in areas that are consistently shady or where they will be overshadowed by taller trees or structures. Too much shade can stunt their growth and lead to a weakened, less healthy tree.

It’s also important to note that Shagbark Hickory trees can be sensitive to artificial lighting, particularly in areas where there is a lot of light pollution from nearby streetlights or buildings. This can disrupt their natural growth cycles and lead to problems like stunted growth, leaf burn or discoloration, and other issues.

Overall, providing ample sunlight and avoiding excessive exposure to artificial lighting are key to growing healthy Shagbark Hickory trees. By taking these factors into account, you can help ensure that your Shagbark Hickory trees flourish and thrive for years to come.

Temperature Requirements

The Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is a hardy and resilient tree species that can thrive in a variety of different temperature conditions. However, in order to grow healthy and strong, there are a few important temperature requirements that need to be met.

First and foremost, the Shagbark Hickory requires a temperate climate in which to grow. This means that it prefers temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold, but somewhere in the middle. The optimal temperature range for the Shagbark Hickory is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, although it can tolerate temperatures ranging from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

In terms of seasonal temperature variations, the Shagbark Hickory prefers a distinct four-season climate, with warm summers and cool winters. During the summer months, the tree prefers temperatures between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while during the winter months, it can withstand temperatures as low as 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s also important to note that the Shagbark Hickory is highly adaptable, and can tolerate both drought conditions and occasional flooding. However, it does require well-drained soil in order to avoid waterlogged root systems.


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Overall, if you’re looking to grow healthy and strong Shagbark Hickory trees, it’s essential to provide them with a temperate and seasonal climate, along with well-drained soil and occasional watering during dry spells. With these temperature requirements met, your Shagbark Hickory trees will flourish and provide shade, beauty, and a bounty of delicious nuts to enjoy.

My Favorite Tools For Growing Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Ah, the Shagbark Hickory! This gorgeous tree is a true icon, with its distinctive shaggy bark and delicious hickory nuts. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your yard, you’ll want to take good care of it to keep it healthy and thriving. Here are some top tools and equipment you’ll need:

1. Pruning Shears: The key to maintaining a healthy Shagbark Hickory tree is proper pruning. Regular pruning can help control the tree’s size, shape, and overall health. Invest in a high-quality pair of pruning shears to make clean, precise cuts.

2. Gloves: As you work on your Shagbark Hickory tree, a good pair of gloves is essential. Not only will they protect your hands from wounds and scratches, but they’ll also help prevent the spread of diseases from one tree to another.

3. Soil Test Kit: The quality of your soil can greatly affect the health of your Shagbark Hickory tree. Invest in a soil test kit to determine the pH level, nutrient levels, and other important factors that affect plant growth. With this information, you can adjust your soil accordingly.

4. Mulch: Applying mulch around the base of your Shagbark Hickory tree can help protect its roots from extreme temperatures and retain moisture. Not only does this keep the tree healthy, but it can also improve the look of your yard.

5. Fertilizer: Even with the best soil, your Shagbark Hickory tree may need additional nutrients to stay healthy. Invest in a high-quality fertilizer designed specifically for trees to give your tree the boost it needs.


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By using these tools and equipment, you can ensure your Shagbark Hickory tree stays healthy and beautiful for years to come. Happy caring!

Preferred Soil Type

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is a large, deciduous tree that grows up to 100 feet tall in its native range of the eastern United States. If you’re considering growing this majestic tree in your garden, it’s important to know about its soil requirements.

Shagbark hickory likes well-draining soil with a pH range of 6-7.5. It prefers loamy, moist soil, and can also tolerate clay soils as long as they are well-draining. The tree is not very tolerant of dry soils, so make sure to keep the soil consistently moist, especially during its first few years of growth.

One nutrient that is particularly important for shagbark hickory is calcium. This nutrient helps the tree develop strong, healthy wood, which is essential for its structural integrity. Therefore, it’s a good idea to amend the soil with lime or a calcium-based fertilizer to make sure the tree has access to adequate amounts of calcium.

Additionally, since shagbark hickory is a nut tree, it benefits from having access to plenty of micronutrients like zinc, copper, and manganese. You can add these nutrients to the soil by using a balanced fertilizer that contains a variety of micronutrients.


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Overall, shagbark hickory is a relatively easy tree to grow as long as you provide it with the right soil conditions. With proper care, it can be a beautiful and long-lived addition to your garden, providing shade, nuts, and wildlife habitat for many years to come.

Watering Requirements

To grow a healthy Shagbark Hickory tree, it’s important to understand its watering requirements. While this species is relatively drought tolerant, it still needs consistent moisture to thrive.

When young, Shagbark Hickories require more frequent watering, typically two to three times per week, to establish their root system. As they mature, reduce watering to once a week or every 10 days, but adjust based on rainfall and soil moistness.

When watering Shagbark Hickories, deep watering is better than shallow watering. Rather than frequently sprinkling the tree, deeply water it once or twice a week, allowing the water to soak deep into the soil. This encourages deep root growth and helps the tree better withstand periods of drought.

It’s crucial to avoid overwatering Shagbark Hickories, as they don’t tolerate soggy or waterlogged soil. This can lead to root rot and other diseases. So, strike the balance between keeping the soil moist and not overwatering.

In essence, to grow a healthy Shagbark Hickory, make sure it receives consistent but not excessive moisture. With proper watering, this tree can thrive and add natural beauty to any landscape.

What You Need To Know About Fertilizing Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Shagbark hickory trees, scientifically known as Carya ovata, are majestic and long-lived deciduous trees that grow up to 80 feet tall. These trees are prized for their delicious nuts, which are used in cooking and baking, and their beautiful, shaggy bark, which peels off in large, curved strips. If you’re planning on growing shagbark hickory trees in your garden, it’s important to provide them with the right fertilizers to ensure they grow healthy and strong.

Shagbark hickories are hardy trees that can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. They prefer soils that are rich in organic matter and have a slightly acidic pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. Before planting your shagbark hickory, it’s important to amend the soil with organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost, to improve its fertility and nutrient content.

Once planted, shagbark hickory trees require regular fertilizing to keep them healthy and productive. A balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 blend, can be applied in early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. Apply the fertilizer evenly around the tree’s drip line, which is the outer edge of the tree’s branches, and water it in well. Avoid applying fertilizer too close to the trunk of the tree, as this can burn the roots and damage the tree.

In addition to regular fertilizing, shagbark hickory trees benefit from mulching around their base. A layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded leaves, can help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds, which can compete with the tree for nutrients. Mulch also gradually decomposes, adding organic matter to the soil and improving its fertility.

In conclusion, growing healthy shagbark hickory trees requires providing them with nutrient-rich soil, regular fertilizing, and mulching. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the beauty and bounty of these majestic trees for years to come.

My Favorite Fertilizers For Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

When it comes to finding the perfect fertilizer for your Shagbark Hickory trees, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Shagbark Hickories are known for their tough, resilient nature, but even the hardiest tree needs a little extra help from time to time. Here are some of the best fertilizers to keep your Shagbark Hickory healthy and thriving:


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1. Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers: These types of fertilizers provide a steady supply of nitrogen over an extended period, which promotes steady and healthy growth in your trees. Look for fertilizers with a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio of around 16-4-8 or 20-10-10.

2. Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers are a great choice for those who prefer to avoid synthetic fertilizers since they are derived from natural sources. These types of fertilizers can help improve soil health, boost nutrient uptake, and enhance overall tree health.

3. Compost: Composting is an excellent way to provide your Shagbark Hickory with a slow-release source of nutrients while also improving soil structure and water retention. Simply add compost to the surface of the soil around the base of your tree, and let nature do the rest.

4. Mulch: Mulch is another great option for providing your tree with a steady supply of nutrients. Choose an organic mulch such as wood chips, leaves, or grass clippings, and spread a layer around the base of your tree.

No matter which fertilizer you choose, it’s essential to apply them correctly. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and avoid over-fertilizing your tree, as this can lead to more harm than help. With the right fertilizer and a little bit of care, your Shagbark Hickory tree will stay healthy and strong for many years to come.

Harvesting Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Time To Maturity

The Shagbark Hickory, also known as Carya ovata, is a deciduous tree species that is hardy in USDA zones four through eight. It is native to eastern North America, and its nuts provide a valuable food source for wildlife.

From the time that the Shagbark Hickory sprouts to its maturity, it takes several decades. Young saplings can take around five to six years to reach a height of three to four feet. However, the tree does not reach maturity until it is around 40 years old. This means that it can take a total of 45 to 50 years for the Shagbark Hickory to go from sprouting to maturity.

During the first few years, the Shagbark Hickory grows relatively slowly, putting most of its energy into developing its root system. However, once the tree reaches a height of around 10 to 15 feet, it begins to grow more rapidly. At this stage, it can put on as much as two feet of growth per year.

Eventually, the tree will reach its full height, which can be as much as 80 feet tall in some cases. At maturity, the Shagbark Hickory will have a broad, spreading canopy and a deeply furrowed bark that separates into long, shaggy strips.

In conclusion, the Shagbark Hickory takes several decades to reach maturity, but is a valuable species of tree for its nuts and as a habitat for wildlife. Its growth rate is slow in the early years, but picks up as the tree becomes established, before eventually reaching its full height and characteristic appearance.

Harvest Instructions

Harvesting Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

If you’re a lover of hickory nuts, then getting to know how to harvest shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is a skill you cannot afford to ignore. This species is indigenous to the eastern parts of the United States and is well known for its unique shaggy bark that peels in long strips. Here’s a procedure to guide you on your shagbark hickory harvesting journey.

Finding the Right Time
The best time to harvest shagbark hickory is between late September and early October. The tree usually sheds its nuts naturally as the fruits mature. Keep an eye out for the nuts falling from the tree. Gather these nuts as they will yield more and are less likely to be infested with insects.

Choosing the Right Nuts
Before you can begin harvesting, you want to ensure that the nuts you pick are of the highest quality. Look for nuts with firm, uncracked shells, free of dents and spots, and with no evidence of insect or animal damage.

Removing the Nuts from the Tree
If you don’t find fallen nuts, you can gently hit the limbs with a long stick to loosen them from the tree. Once they come down, collect the nuts in a container.

Drying and Storing
After collecting, spread the nuts out to dry in a well-ventilated area for up to two weeks. This helps to reduce the moisture level and prevent the growth of mold, mildew, or other forms of decay. Store the nuts in airtight containers or ziplock bags and place them in a cool, dry area.

Harvesting shagbark hickory nuts can be a fun and fulfilling activity for those who appreciate the nutty flavor and unique aroma of this tree’s fruit. With these simple steps, you’ll be well-equipped to get the best out of your harvest.

My Favorite Tools For Harvest Time

Harvesting Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) can be a satisfying experience, but it can also be a challenge if you don’t have the right tools and equipment. Here’s a list of the best tools and equipment you need to successfully harvest Shagbark Hickory.

1. Hickory Harvesting Stick: A long pole or stick with a hook at the end, used to pull down the branches and nuts from the tree. This can be made from a sturdy branch or purchased from a gardening supply store.


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2. Protective Gear: Shagbark Hickory trees have a rough bark that can easily scratch the skin. Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin from scratches and cuts. A sturdy pair of shoes or boots is also important, as you will be walking over uneven terrain.

3. Collecting Container: You’ll need something to collect the nuts as they fall. A burlap sack or a basket with a handle is perfect for this job. Make sure it’s large enough to hold plenty of nuts.

4. Nut Cracker: Once you’ve collected the Shagbark Hickory nuts, you’ll need a nut cracker to open them. Look for one specifically designed for hickory nuts, as they will be tougher to crack than other types of nuts.

5. Storage Container: After you’ve cracked open the nuts, you’ll need somewhere to store them. An airtight container or a resealable bag is best to keep the nuts fresh and dry.

Harvesting Shagbark Hickory can be a rewarding experience with the right tools and equipment. Make sure to invest in these essential items to make the most out of your harvesting experience.

End of Season & Overwintering

Ah, the Shagbark Hickory! Such a stunning and robust tree, loved for its bark that flakes off in long, shaggy strips. As the seasons change and winter approaches, it’s important to take care of this treasured tree for it to thrive in the years to come.

First things first, watering should be tapered off as the temperatures cool. The Shagbark Hickory is a hardy species that’s relatively drought tolerant, so don’t worry about giving it a good soaking unless there hasn’t been any substantial rainfall for a while.

Next, remove any weeds or grass that are competing for nutrients around the base of the tree. This will help reduce the likelihood of pest infestation and will allow the hickory to focus its energy on root growth and regeneration.

Pruning can be done in late fall or early winter. You should remove any dead or damaged branches and trim the rest to promote healthy growth in the spring. Make sure to use clean cuts and avoid removing more than a third of the tree’s limbs.

Finally, mulching. This is crucial in protecting the tree’s roots from the harsh winter weather. Spread a thick layer of organic mulch around the base of the hickory, making sure to leave a few inches of space between the mulch and the trunk. This will help regulate the temperature and moisture levels, as well as protect against frost heaving.

And there you have it! By following these simple steps, you can ensure your Shagbark Hickory has a healthy and restful winter, ready to burst forth with new growth come spring.

Final Thoughts on Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Congratulations! You now have all the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully germinate, grow, and harvest Shagbark Hickory trees (Carya ovata). From selecting the right location, to preparing the soil and planting the seeds, to providing the necessary care and attention as the tree grows, to ultimately harvesting the nut crop, you have learned all the important steps to ensure a bountiful harvest. Keep in mind that growing a Shagbark Hickory tree requires patience, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, but with the right preparation and care, you can enjoy the many benefits of this remarkable tree for years to come. So go ahead and take the first step today, and start growing your own Shagbark Hickory tree today!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Q1: What is the best time of year to plant Shagbark Hickory trees?
A1: The best time to plant Shagbark Hickory trees is during the fall, when the soil is still warm but the air temperature is cooler. This allows for the tree’s roots to establish themselves before the cold winter weather sets in.

Q2: How much water do Shagbark Hickory trees need?
A2: Shagbark Hickory trees do not need frequent watering once they are established. They prefer well-draining soil and can tolerate some drought conditions. However, in the first year of planting, it is important to ensure the tree receives adequate water to allow for proper root development.

Q3: How long does it take for Shagbark Hickory trees to produce nuts?
A3: Shagbark Hickory trees typically begin to produce nuts between 10 and 15 years of age, but can take up to 20 years to fully mature. The amount of nuts produced will vary depending on climate and growing conditions, but a healthy tree can produce several hundred pounds of nuts each year.

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