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Bitternut Hickory, A Common Tree in North America

Carya cordiformis, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America


Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), also called bitternut, swamp hickory, and pignut hickory, is a large pecan hickory with commercial stands located mostly north of the other pecan hickories. Bitternut hickory is cut and sold in mixture with the true hickories. It is the shortest lived of the hickories, living to about 200 years. The dark brown close-grained hardwood is highly shock resistant which makes it excellent for tools. It also makes good fuel wood and is planted as an ornamental.

1. The Silviculture of Bitternut

R. Merrilees, Illustrator
Throughout the range of bitternut hickory, the mean annual precipitation ranges from 25 to 50 inches except for a small area in the southern Appalachians where about 80 inches is common. In the northern part of the range, snowfall averages 80 inches per year, but in the southern extreme of the range, it rarely snows. During the growing season, from April to September, the precipitation ranges from 20 to 40 inches.

2. The Images of Bitternut

Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of bitternut hickory. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Juglandales > Juglandaceae > Carya cordiformis. Bitternut hickory is also sometimes called bitternut, swamp hickory, and pignut hickory.

3. The Range of Bitternut Hickory

Range of Bitternut Hickory
Bitternut hickory is probably the most abundant and most uniformly distributed of all the hickories. It grows throughout the eastern United States from southwestern New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and southern Quebec; west to southern Ontario, central Michigan, and northern Minnesota; south to eastern Texas; and east to northwestern Florida and Georgia. It is most common, however, from southern New England west to Iowa and from southern Michigan south to Kentucky.

4. Bitternut Hickory at Virginia Tech

Leaf: Alternate, pinnately compound, 7 to 10 inches long, with 7 to 11 leaflets, leaflets are lanceolate and serrate, rachis is slender and pubescent, dark green above, paler below.

Twig: Moderately stout to slender (when compared to other hickories), leaf scars are 3-lobed; terminal bud is valvate, 4-angled and sulfur-yellow to brown in color.

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