Identify hickory trees by inspecting the leaves for certain characteristics, such as serrated edges and an alternating pattern of leaf shapes and sizes. A single hickory leaf stalk, or rachis, can possess anywhere from five to 17 leaves.
Hickory leaves are long and narrow. They grow in pairs on opposite sides of the rachis with a single leaf protruding from the tip. The largest leaves are usually found at the base of the stem.
Inspect the bark of the tree for a vertical ridge pattern. It may vary in depth and width but the ridges are always aligned vertically. Also, the nuts of the hickory tree have a hard outer shell that protects a white or tan nut, about the size of a marble, on the inside.