Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

CARYA cordiformis

Image of Carya cordiformis

Gerald L. Klingaman



Botanical Name

CARYA cordiformis

Plant Common Name

Bitternut Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Swamp Hickory

General Description

One of the best hickories for ornamental use, bitternut is a tall deciduous tree from eastern North America. Its straight trunk and strong spreading branches form an oval or cylindrical crown. The gray bark is rough and flaky at its surface, lacking the deep fissuring and plate-like scales typical of other hickories. The compound leaves are divided into 7 to 9 lance-shaped leaflets, with one leaflet at the tip and the others paired. They emerge from yellow buds somewhat later than the leaves of most other hickories. The foliage turns yellow in fall. Inconspicuous flowers appear in spring, with male flowers borne in drooping catkins on second year wood, and female flowers in short spikes at the tips of the new growth.

Pollination is by wind. Yellow-brown, spherical, thin-husked fruits ripen in fall, each fruit containing a brittle-shelled nut with a small bitter reddish brown kernel at its center. The nuts are valuable to wildlife, but often with a bitter, astingent taste that can still be off-putting to many animals. This tree has hard, tough, dense wood that is valuable for furniture making, wood flooring and tool handles. Slow- and clean-burning, it is excellent for fuel or for adding a pleasing flavor to smoked meats.

Give bitternut ample space and sunlight. Its long taproot grows best in deep well-drained soil. Use it in groups or as an individual specimen in parks, large residential properties, or naturalistic plantings.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    50'-80' / 15.2m - 24.4m

  • Width

    35'-50' / 10.7m - 15.2m

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Shade Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing