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bitternut hickory Carya cordiformis play

Bitternut hickory is found throughout a broad range of eastern and midwestern forests. Though not equal to other hickories in terms of wood strength and wildlife value, bitternut hickory is often sold and used similarly.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Clearcutting with some amount of bitternut advanced regeneration results in a fast growing stand of saplings. Copious stump-sprouting allows bitternut to withstand browsing, breakage, drought, and fire.

Bitternut hickory is found on a wide variety of soils, from rich moist bottoms to drier hillsides.


A medium to large tree capable of reaching over 100 feet tall with an open, rounded top.

Timber Value
Bitternut hickory is used for lumber, furniture, dowels, tool handles, ladders, paneling, flooring, pallets, crates, pulpwood, fuelwood, charcoal, and the smoking of meats.

Wildlife Value
The extremely bitter nuts are not a favorite of wildlife, but they are still eaten.
Attracts squirrel, rabbits, beavers, small rodents and mammals

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
The wood of bitternut hickory is very dense and is considered a high quality firewood. Leaf litter from bitternut hickory adds calcium to the soil. Early settlers used oil extracted from the nuts to fuel oil lamps.

Latin Meaning
Carya: Greek "karya or kaura" (walnut -Juglans regia) / cordiformis: heart-shaped (fruit) Latin "cordis" (heart) and "forma" (shaped)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.