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Carya aquatica

Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt.

Water Hickory, Bitter Water Hickory, Bitter Hickory, Swamp Hickory, Water Pignut Hickory, Water Pignut, Bitter Pecan

Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Synonym(s): Carya aquatica var. australis, Hicoria aquatica

USDA Symbol: CAAQ2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The pinnately compound leaves of this hickory have 9-11 leaflets. Trees can grow to 150 ft. but are usually much shorter. The bark of older trees is light-brown, splitting into long, plate-like, red-tinged scales. Large tree with tall straight trunk, slender upright branches, narrow crown, and bitter inedible nuts.

Both the common and scientific names describe this hickory occupying wettest soils. The bitter nuts are consumed by ducks and other wildlife. Water Hickory is the tallest of all hickories; the national champion measures 150' (45.7 m).


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 150 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MO , MS , NC , OK , SC , TN , TX , VA
Native Distribution: S.e. VA to s. IL & s.e. MO, s. to FL & TX
Native Habitat: Swamps; river banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet soils.
Conditions Comments: This species is very tolerant of wet soils, yet is can flourish on well-drained sites.


Use Wildlife: Serves as a primary host for some magnificent moths.
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Luna, funeral dagger, and giant regal.


Description: Propagation is possible by seed.
Seed Collection: Nuts can be collected off the ground after natural seed fall or after shaking the tree.
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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Carya aquatica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Carya aquatica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Carya aquatica


Record Modified: 2022-09-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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