Carya cordiformis

Bitternut Hickory, Swamp Hickory




  • native to southwestern Canada down through Florida
  • zone 4

Habit and Form

  • large deciduous tree
  • 50' to 75' tall
  • cylindrical, irregular crown
  • coarse texture
  • medium growth rate

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • odd pinnately compound, deciduous leaves
  • 6" to 10" long
  • 5 to 9 leaflets
  • sharply serrated leaf margins
  • pubescent, light green color

Autumn Foliage

  • fall color is yellow to golden
  • very attractive


  • catkins
  • not ornamentally important


  • rounded nut
  • 1" in diameter
  • thick shell surrounds nut, splits at base when mature
  • edible


  • gray to brown color
  • shallowly ridged
  • stout, gray stems
  • smooth


  • prefers deep, well-drained soil
  • has a large taproot, which makes transplanting difficult
  • full sun to partial shade

Landscape Uses

  • for fruit
  • for unique bark
  • naturalized areas
  • for barbecues (hickory smoked meat)


  • fruit can be a litter problem
  • few pest and disease problems

ID Features

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • odd pinnately compound leaf with 5 to 9 leaflets
  • edible round nut
  • terminal bud is imbricate with a blunt tip, yellow
  • terminal bud with 2 to 4 visible pubescent scales


  • by seed


  • none

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.