bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)
Juglandaceae, the walnut family
How to recognize bitternut hickory. Bitternut hickory has 7-11 leaflets, bud scales that are leaflike and valvate (meeting at the edges rather than overlapping), bark that doesn’t exfoliate, and thin-husked fruits.
The bark of young trees is smooth and light gray. Older trees (shown below) are shallowly grooved with thin, flat, interconnecting ridges.
Flowers and fruits. The trees are monoecious (unisexual flowers, both sexes borne on the same trees). The males are presented in branched catkins. The fruits are smooth one-seeded nuts that split open along 4 sutures.
Below see closeups of the flowers.
Bitternut hickory fruits are about 1 inch wide, 4-ribbed, and thin-hulled.
In the winter. Bitternut hickory twigs seem to have been touched by Midas!
Where to find bitternut hickory. E. Lucy Braun, in The Woody Plants of Ohio (1961, 1989; The Ohio State University Press) tells us it “has a wider range than any other hickory, extending farther north and slightly farther west. It is a tree of mesic situations, and general in Ohio. It is easily recognized from midsummer until growth starts in the spring by the valvate yellow-scurfy terminal bud”
Scanned Image from an Old Book
(Flora of West Virginia, by P.D. Strausbaugh and Earl L. Core)
Ooh, ooh, I have a question!
What are the two groups of hickories, and what distinguishes them, and what are two examples of each (common names OK).
Hickories are divided into two groups: the pecan hickories (section Apocarya) and the true hickories (section Carya):
True hickories such as shagbark hickory and pignut hickory have mostly 5–7 leaflets, and a large egg-shaped terminal bud with overlapping scales.
Pecan hickories such as bitternut hickory and pecan (the latter not quite native in Ohio, but found only a bit farther west) have more than 7 leaflets, and the terminal bud is elongated and flattened with scales that meet edgewise.