Bitternut Hickory - <em>Carya cordiformis</em> - Zone 4 -

Bitternut Hickory - Carya cordiformis - Zone 4

The bitternut hickory is a large and versatile tree; the fastest growing of the pecan hickories. It offers great ornamental value with a handsome bearing and attractive fall colour.

3-5 Feetsold-out$35.00$0.00
1-2 Feetsold-out$25.00$0.00
2-3 Feetsold-out$30.00$0.00
6-12 Inchessold-out$20.00$0.00

The tree

Bitternut hickories are the only native North American pecan hickory. The area they call home encompasses most of the eastern United States along with Ontario and Quebec. Potential range extends well beyond this. They are medium/large trees with an open and rounded form and long taproot, capable of reaching heights of 25 metres and spreads up to 15 metres. They are moderately fast growers and have an average expected lifespan of 200 years in good conditions. The bark is greenish grey and smooth when young, taking on a pattern of interlaced ridges and fading in colour with age. The leaves are odd pinnate with 5-11 long lance shaped leaflets slightly wider toward the tip. They are greenish/yellow on top and paler underneath often taking on a golden/yellow colour in fall. The nuts are about 2 cm in diameter with a thin shell and four vertical ridges on the bottom half. The most striking characteristic is the buds which are a sulfuric yellow and the terminal buds look like little flames. These trees are most commonly found moist, rich soils but can grow across a very wide range of soil conditions as long as it is not too shallow. They are shade tolerant but will only survive in such conditions and need good sun exposure for significant growth.  

Its Uses

Bitternut hickories are elegant landscape trees with a strong tolerance to urban conditions and extensive root systems that can help in erosion control. The nuts are edible but extremely bitter and while the flavour can be softened by leaching out the bitter tannins, it is simpler to just crush them into flour. The nuts also have a very high oil content and were used by early settlers for lamp oil and cooking oil. The wood is extremely hard, durable, and shock resistant. It is well suited for tool handles, ladders, flooring, and was used by Native Americans for making bows. Hickory wood is also excellent fuel wood and the bitternut hickory is the preferred hickory wood for smoking meat.

Height at maturity25 metres (82 feet)
Spacing9 metres (30 feet)
Hardiness zone4
Sun / shadeadaptable
Average fruit weight
Fruit colorcream
Years to bear fruit30
Latin nameCarya cordiformis
Average diameter of fruit2 cm
Also known asSwamp Hickory