Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)

bitternut hickory leaves

Click on the images help you identify an Bitternut hickory.



Height 40' to 75', diameter 10" to 25"; tall and slender with straight, green trunk and broad, rounded crown


Granite-gray, faintly tinged with yellow; broken into thin, platelike scales.


Alternate on stem, length 6" to 10", pinnately compound with seven to 11 leaflets that are bright green with finely toothed margins; it is the smallest of all hickory leaves; turns golden yellow in autumn. The tree's bright yellow winter buds are a good identification tool.

Fruit (seed)

A nut that is almost round with a sharply pointed tip; enclosed in a thin, scaly husk that splits about halfway down in four lines of division. Its very bitter kernel gives the tree its common name, bitternut.


Found in rich, moist woods, common southward and extending through the Big Woods north to Mille Lacs and infrequently to the upper Mississippi and the tributaries of the St. Louis River; shade intolerant, moderately slow growing.

Wood uses

Hard, strong, heavy, and reddish-brown; used for hoops, fuel, farm implements, firewood, and smoking meats. Considered somewhat inferior to the other hickories.

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