I was hoping someone can help me identify this nut and the tree it goes with. I found a bunch of these near my truck when I went to my Uncle's mountain place in Grayson County, Virginia. I'm pretty sure it's growing wild as he cleared the property when he bought the place and never planted anything. It was raining on me when I took the pictures, but I couldn't see any nuts actually on a tree. However, most of the nuts seemed to be clustered under the tree in the pictures I included. Again, I didn't actually see any on a tree, so this might not be the tree they came from, but there were a lot of them directly under it. It looks like a walnut to me, but when I looked up a picture of a Black Walnut, the green pods were smooth. The one pictured clearly has sections. Whether this is due to the beginnings of decay, I don't know. I also have a picture of the nut out of the shell, pictured near the one in an intact shell. Thanks for the help.

Click on the pictures for full size.

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  • Definitely not a Black Walnut, the outer hulls of your nut are segmented, walnuts aren't.
    – GardenerJ
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 20:59
  • 2
    4 sections or 5? Picture leaves me in doubt. The sections are not from decay, they are how the husk grows; 4 .vs. 5 might help in identifying it. It's not unlike a hickory but it's like a lot of potential nuts (if it was black walnut, you'd know in part because of the stains that would stay on your hands for days after picking one up - also, the nut is WAY too smooth for those.) The husks from those actually make a good brown dye, not surprisingly.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 22:05

4 Answers 4


I had to dig pretty deep into my reference books for this because the nut and the leaf do not match.

The nut appears to be from a Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) based on the four parts of the husk on the nut. That being said the whole hickory genus is not fussy about pollinating and will cross within the Carya species even pecans.

The leaves appear to be from another American native, the American Hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana who also have two species that interbreed. The identication is based on the serration on the leaves. These plants have smooth bark. It could also be American Hop Hornbeam or Ironwood, Ostrya virginiana which has long vertical bark sections on the trunk.

  • I agree with your identification. Hickories are common where I live and are a favorite nut to collect on nature walks in the fall. They're delicious when you can find nuts that aren't wormy. OP, if you find yourself back in the area, look at the trees for one with very shaggy bark - once you see a mature shagbark, you'll never have trouble identifying one again.
    – michelle
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 2:49

You can find the tree because its leaves are bigger than the normal ones (5 to 10 inch) I believe that the nuts are a juglandaceae kind. In your image you can appreciate the leaves of your tree (the big ones).


I agree, hickory of some thing. The leaves are from a different tree. Hickory leaflets come in groups of 7-11. The trunk photo isn't clear enough to be sure, but it looks a little large for a hornbeam. There are hickories other than shagbark, found in the deep woods as opposed to farmland. May be a mockernut.


I agree that this is definitely a hickory nut. Hickory nuts are really good if you can find them without weevils. It could be a shagbark or a mockernut hickory. My guess would be mockernut as it's far more common in your area and it'I go up to grayson highlands around you to hike every so often so I'm familiar with the area.

One thing I don't agree with is the identification of the tree in the pictures. It's definitely not the source of the nut, so it's not a hickory. It's definitely not a musclewood/american hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) because it is much larger than most I've ever seen and I'm not seeing the characteristic muscly texture of the trunk. It's also probably not hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) because I'm not seeing the thinly furrowed bark.

The tree in the pictures looks like an American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) to me. Smooth bark, thin papery serrated leaf etc. The only thing that would really seal the deal is a picture of a leaf bud, but I'm almost positive that's an American Beech without.

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