True hickories are found throughout the eastern half of the United States. The species most important commercially are shagbark (Carya ovata), pignut (C. glabra), shellbark (C. laciniosa), and mockernut (C. tomentosa). The greatest commercial production of the true hickories for all uses is in the Middle Atlantic and Central States, with the Southern and South Atlantic States rapidly expanding to handle nearly half of all hickory lumber.
The sapwood of the true hickory group is white and usually quite wide, except in old, slow-growing trees. The heartwood is reddish. The wood is exceptionally tough, heavy, hard, and strong, and shrinks considerably in drying. For some purposes, both rings per centimeter (or inch) and weight are limiting factors where strength is important.
The major use for high quality hickory is for tool handles, which require high shock resistance. It is also used for ladder rungs, athletic goods, agricultural implements, dowels, gymnasium apparatuses, poles, and furniture. Lower grade hickory is not suitable for the special uses of high quality hickory because of knottiness or other growth features and low density. However, the lower grade is useful for pallets and similar items. Hickory sawdust, chips, and some solid wood are used to flavor meat by smoking.
*Much of the base wood information presented here is made available by the USDA FPL FS. If you are interested in a much more technical description of wood properties, I encourage you to visit the source.