Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.
Search native plant database:
Carya cordiformis (Wangenh.) K. Koch
Bitternut hickory, Swamp hickory
Synonym(s): Carya cordiformis var. latifolia, Hicoria cordiformis
USDA Symbol: CACO15
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
A slender shade tree, bitter-nut hickory is one of the largest hickories, growing 50-100 ft. tall. Bitter-nut hickory typically develops several primary ascending limbs, forming an arched shape. The deciduous tree produces long, graceful catkins and large, hard-shelled nuts. The pinnately-compound leaves attain a bright, clear yellow early in the fall. It holds its fall foliage longer than other hickories.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Green, Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr
, WV Canada: ON
, QC Native Distribution:
s. Que., c. MI
& s.e. MN,
s. to n.w. FL,
& e. NE. Native Habitat:
Woodlands; rich bottomlands; rocky hillsides; stream banks
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Moist Soil pH:
Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2) CaCO3 Tolerance:
High Soil Description:
Rich soils. Conditions Comments:
This is the most rapid growing of all hickory trees. It is difficult to transplant because of a large taproot,
but perhaps less so than other hickories. Suffers from soil compaction and is sometimes weakened by its branching structure. In
manicured areas, the small nuts can be a nuisance. Unlike other hickories, this species casts an open shade, allowing turf or ornamentals to thrive underneath.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Nuts are bitter and squirrels tend to avoid them. Serves as a primary host for some magnificent moths.
Use Food: Bitternut hickory is favoured for smoking ham, bacon and other meats because it imparts a distinctive flavour. (Kershaw)
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Luna, funeral dagger, and giant regal
PropagationDescription: Most easily grown from fresh seed sown immediately after collection or stratified and sown in spring. Increase by hardwood cuttings is usually successful.
Seed Collection: Collect nuts from September to November. Husks usually dry and split open by themselves when the nuts are mature. Persistent husks can be removed with a corn sheller.
Seed Treatment: Embyro dormancy can be overcome by moist stratification at 33-40 degrees for 30-150 days. Older seeds require less stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff