Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

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.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Carya cordiformis (Bitternut hickory)
Smith, R.W.

Carya cordiformis

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

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 150 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Green, Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: 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 Conditions

Water 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.


Use 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


Description: 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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According 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


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
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

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


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

Go back