Nuts can also be grown on smaller trees! Large, majestic nut trees that provide shade can be wonderful, but you might not have that big an area or you might not need more shade trees. That is really not a problem. Use small trees instead of shade trees and you can still grow nuts.
I tend to prefer to recommend native trees over imported species because they are better adapted to the conditions that they will face growing and they are less likely to escape the confines of a specific property and become a problem to wildlife elsewhere. There are two smaller nuts trees that grow well in this area of North Carolina that are native throughout the eastern half of the United States.
|A mature clump of American Hazelnut|
A nut similar in flavor can be grown on a chestnut. Because it is closely related to the Chinkapin the tree will have a similar appearance. Commercially, you find that the American chestnut is no longer really available. This is due to the chestnut blight. The Chinese chestnut is a blight resistant tree and will provide you with a suitable replacement. It reaches forty feet in height and has a rounded canopy. Nuts are borne in spiny cases in clusters of two to three. The tree does have a very foul smelling flower, so I recommend that it be planted away from any dwelling.
Finally, you could use a hardy almond as a possible ornamental and nut producing tree. These are not native to the eastern United States and have had mixed success, but if they are planted with that in mind they could surprise you. They are actually related to the cherry and as such should be pruned and treated in the same way. Spring flowering will be similar to the cherry with delicate pink five-petalled flowers in masses along the stems. The trees themselves will reach fifteen to eighteen feet in height and have an open vase shape. The nut is actually the equivalent of the pit of their fruit.
Add variety to your site by adding small trees as well as large shade trees and remember that those small trees can actually work for you as well.