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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Bitternut Hickory

Bitternut Hickory

(Carya cordiformis (Wangenh) K Koch.)


Bitternut hickory is a tall, slender tree with a broad pyramid-shaped crown. It is found throughout the state on moist, rich soils.

Its leaves are.6 to 10 inches long with seven to nine long, oval, toothed leaflets that are dark yellow-green above and lighter below.

The 4-ribbed nut is about an inch long, roughly spherical, with a thin shell. The meat of the nut is very bitter. The husk is four-winged from the tip to about the middle and is covered with yellowish -green, scruffy hairs. The bark on the trunk is granite-gray and faintly tinged with yellow. It is less rough than most of the hickories, yet it is broken into narrow, plate-like scales.

At all seasons, the bitternut hickory can be identified from all other native trees by its bright, scaly, yellow, long buds. On bottomlands, it develops into a tree of 50 to 70 feet or more, with a straight trunk 1 to 2 1/2 feet in diameter. The wood is hard, strong and heavy; the heartwood is reddish brown. It is said to be somewhat inferior to the other hickories, but it is used for the same purposes: tool handles; furniture; interior paneling; and sporting goods.

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