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.
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.”
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.