Carya cordiformis (Wangenh.) K. Koch
Bitternut Hickory, Swamp Hickory, Bitternut, Pig Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Pignut, White Hickory, Red Hickory, Bitter Walnut, Bitter Pecan
Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)
Synonym(s): Carya cordiformis var. latifolia, Hicoria cordiformis
USDA Symbol: CACO15
A slender shade tree, bitter-nut hickory is one of the largest hickories, growing 50-150 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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 150 feet tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Green, Brown
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON , QC
Native Distribution: S.w. NH, s. Que., c. MI & s.e. MN, s. to n.w. FL, e. TX, c. OK & 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
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 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
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Carya cordiformis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Carya cordiformis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Carya cordiformis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-09-20
Research By: TWC Staff