swamp hickory, water hickory, tightbark hickory

Carya cordiformis (Wangenheim) K. Koch

Bitternut hickory is occasional in most sections of the state except in the higher Adirondacks or Catskills. It is by preference a bottomland tree growing on wet sites in pastures, fields, and along streams, though it is occasionally found on hillsides and ridgetops in small moist depressions. It grows well on moist, rich soil such as is found in many farm woodlots. The wood is heavy, very hard, strong, tough, and dark brown in color with paler sapwood. It is inferior to that of the other hickories but is used for practically the same purposes.

Bark - thin, close, with shallow furrows and narrow regular ridges, usually does not scale or shag off, light gray in color.

Twigs - slender, often yellowish in color, hairy toward the end; grayish or orange-brown in color during the first winter; pith brown and unlike any other hickory in this respect.

Winter buds - long, flattened, blunt-pointed, covered by 4 sulfur-colored scales; terminal bud 1/3 to 3/4 inch long.

Leaves - alternate, compound, 6 to 10 inches long, with 7 to 11 long, narrow, sharp-pointed leaflets which are smaller and more slender than are those of other hickories.

Fruit - a nearly round nut, thin-husked, brown in color, 3/4 to 1 inch long, without ridges. Kernel - bitter, not edible. Husk - clings to the nut after falling.  Shell is so thin that it can easily be crushed between the fingers.

Distinguishing features - smooth bark and usually straight stem; sulfur-colored bud; 7 to 11 small leaflets.

[introduction] [the keys] [list of 50 trees] [making a tree collection]

[back to the homepage]