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Trees of Iowa: An Interactive Key

Bitternut hickory
(Carya cordiformis)


Leaves are alternate compound with more than 11 leaflets.



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The bitternut hickory is a tall slender tree, 60 to 80 feet tall.  It is found on moist  sites on upper flood plains and at the bottom of slopes.  It is widely distributed over the eastern United States as far west as Kansas and Nebraska.  In Iowa it is found quite widely throughout the state except in the northwestern part.

Hardiness:

Growth Rate:


Mature Shape:


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Site Requirements:
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Flowering Dates: April - May

Seed Dispersal Dates: September - December

Seed Bearing Age: 30 Years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 3-5 Years

Seed Stratification: Prechill seeds for 3 months at 34F to 40F

The tree has pinnately compound leaves from 6 to 9 inches long and composed of from seven to eleven leaflets.  The individual leaflets are more slender than those of the other hickories except the pecan.

Bitternut Hickory Flower Bitternut Hickory Leaves

The fruit is a medium-sized nut about 1 inch long with a thin, light green husk.  The nut  itself has a thin, brittle, creamy colored shell with a reddish-coated kernel, very bitter in taste.

Bitternut Hickory BarkBitternut Hickory Fruit

Although the bark is made up of very fine plate like scales, it is much smoother than the shagbark hickory.  On young branches it is gray in color, slightly ridged and often tinged with yellow.  On larger branches and trunk it is granite gray and coarser ridged.

Bitternut Hickory Twig
 

Click on a thumbnail image below to view a larger picture.
Bitternut Hickory Flowers Bitternut Hickory Twigs Bitternut Hickory Bark Bitternut Hickory Flowers Bitternut Hickory Leaves Bitternut Hickory Twigs Bitternut Hickory Flowers Bitternut Hickory Fruit