Shagbark Hickory

The tree we chose to represent our Irminsul/Yggdrasil is located in the dead center of our property and is one of the oldest trees still remaining after the years of logging, oil drilling, and neglect the land has experienced.

The Shagbark Hickory tree, as someone who came from the West coast, was one of the first trees I noticed around my new home in the East, being highly mysterious and eerie looking, especially in the fall and winter. It’s many knots, “shaggy” bark, holes and twists make it look like something out of a Halloween movie, it just needs an owl and some bats…

These trees can live around 350 years and grow up to 100 feet tall. They produce delicious edible fruit (nuts) that resemble the pecan in texture and flavor. The native tribes who had access to this tree used it for a variety of food products, including milk, flavorings, and bread. It is also a choice wood for smoking meat.

Just like the Germanic tribes favored Ash for weapons and tools, some Native Americans used these trees for weapons, tools, arrows, bows and drumsticks. The bark was also used to flavor a maple syrup alternative.

The Seneca Indians associate these trees with the dead and bringing the dead back to life. It’s said that one could leave the bones of the dead beneath the tree and essentially threaten them to become resurrected lest they be crushed by the limbs of the hickory tree.

Once you see one of these interesting trees it’s hard to not recognize them everywhere. The Shagbark Hickory, in particular, because of its flowing, shaggy, disheveled bark that is signature to their character. This trait, however, is only found amongst mature trees, usually over 20 years old. Until then, the bark remains very smooth, similar to beech.

If you live in the Eastern United States, from Texas to Maine, it is likely you have one of these trees around. I recommend to everyone who has access to one of these awesome trees to sit with one, observe it, experiment with one of its related products, and enjoy its unique character amongst the other trees of the woods.

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