Bitternut hickory

Silhouette - bitternut hickory
  • Latin name: Carya cordiformis (Wangenh.) K. Koch
  • French name: Caryer cordiforme
  • Synonym(s): Swamp hickory
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 19227
Description

Leaves

  • Typical leaf - bitternut hickory
  • Leaflet with detail of finely toothed margin - bitternut hickory

Form

  • 7–11 leaflets on a central stalk
  • Terminal leaflet seldom larger than the uppermost lateral pair
  • Leaflets long-pointed
  • Narrow, scythe-shaped
  • Lower surface hairy

Length

  • Leaf and central stalk 12–20 cm

Colour

  • Upper surface shiny dark green
  • Lower surface paler and dotted

Margin

  • Finely toothed

Buds

  • Lateral bud and leaf scar - bitternut hickory

Form

  • Terminal bud present, slender
  • Tapering, flattened, granular
  • 2–4 scales
  • Edges meet but do not overlap
  • Lateral buds smaller than terminal
  • Angular, often stalked
  • Usually more than 1 bud above a leaf scar
  • Leaf scars small, oval to 3-lobed, slightly raised
  • Bud scales enlarge markedly as the new shoot emerges

Length

  • Terminal bud 10–18 mm

Colour

  • Dark yellow

Twigs

  • Winter twig - bitternut hickory

Form

  • Slender, smooth, shiny
  • Often slightly hairy

Colour

  • Greenish- to greyish-brown

Flowers

Form

  • Pollen flowers in 3-branched, drooping catkins
  • Seed flowers in small erect terminal clusters (spikes)

Structure

  • Monoecious

Fruits

  • Fruit - bitternut hickory

Form

  • Globular
  • Solitary or in pairs
  • Husk thin, covered with matted hairs
  • 4 ridges extending below a short, sharp tip
  • Nut flattened
  • Shell thin, can be cut with a knife
  • Kernel very bitter

Length

  • Fruit 20–35 mm

Width

  • Fruit broadest toward the tip
  • Nut broadest toward the base

Colour

  • Hairs on husk yellowish
  • Kernel reddish-brown

Structure

  • Nut

Bark

Form

  • Remaining smooth for many years
  • With age separating into shallow narrow fissures and scaly ridges
  • Never with loose plate-like scales

Colour

  • Greenish-grey
  • Greyish-yellow irregular vertical lines when young

Wood

Uses

  • Used for flavouring ham and bacon

Size

Height

  • To 25 m

Diameter

  • To 50 cm

Maximum age

  • 150 years

Tree form

  • Silhouette - bitternut hickory

Forest-grown

Trunk

  • Long, branch-free, with little taper

Crown

  • Short, rounded
  • Slender ascending branches that spread out toward the top
  • Side branchlets often curving downward

Habitat

Site

  • Moist lowlands, rich soils on higher ground

Light tolerance

  • Moderately shade-tolerant

Associated species

  • Other broadleaf trees

Range

Southern Ontario and southern Quebec

Photos
  • Bitternut hickory
  • Bitternut hickory
  • Bitternut hickory
  • Bitternut hickory
Distribution map
Distribution map - bitternut hickory
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