Bitternut Swamp Hickory
=Habitat and Range.=--In varying soils and situations; wet woods, low,
damp fields, river valleys, along roadsides, occasional upon uplands and
From Montreal west to Georgian bay.
Maine,--southward, rare; New Hampshire,--eastern limit in the
Connecticut valley, where it ranges farther north than any other of our
hickories, reaching Well's river (Jessup); Vermont,--occasiona
the Green mountains and in the southern Connecticut valley;
Massachusetts,--rather common, abundant in the vicinity of Boston; Rhode
Island and Connecticut,--common.
South to Florida, ascending 3500 feet in Virginia; west to
Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indian territory, and Texas.
=Habit.=--A tall, slender tree, 50-75 feet high and 1 foot-2-1/2 feet in
diameter at the ground, reaching greater dimensions southward. The
trunk, tapering gradually to the point of branching, develops a
capacious, spreading head, usually widest near the top, with lively
green, finely cut foliage of great beauty, turning to a rich orange in
autumn. Easily recognized in winter by its flat, yellowish buds.
=Bark.=--Bark of trunk gray, close, smooth, rarely flaking off in thin
plates; branches and branchlets smooth; leaf-scars prominent; season's
shoots yellow, smooth, yellow-dotted.
=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Terminal buds long, yellow, flattish, often
scythe-shaped, pointed, with a granulated surface; lateral buds much
smaller, often ovate or rounded, pointed. Leaves pinnately compound,
alternate, 12-15 inches long; rachis somewhat enlarged at base; stipules
none; leaflets 5-11, opposite, 5-6 inches long, 1-2 inches wide, bright
green and smooth above, paler and smooth or somewhat downy beneath,
turning to orange yellow in autumn; outline lanceolate, or narrowly oval
to oblong-obovate, serrate; apex taper-pointed to scarcely acute; base
obtuse or rounded except that of the terminal leaflet, which is acute;
sessile and inequilateral, except in terminal leaflet, which has a short
stem and is equal-sided; sometimes scarcely distinguishable from the
leaves of C. porcina; often decreasing regularly in size from the
upper to the lower pair.
=Inflorescence.=--May. Sterile and fertile flowers on the same tree,
appearing when the leaves are fully grown,--sterile at the base of the
season's shoots, or sometimes from the lateral buds of the preceding
season, in slender, pendulous catkins, 3-4 inches long, usually in
threes, branching umbel-like from a common peduncle; scale 3-lobed,
hairy-glandular, middle lobe about the same length as the other two but
narrower, considerably longer toward the end of the catkin; stamens
mostly 5, anthers bearded at the tip: fertile flowers on peduncles at
the end of the season's shoots; calyx 4-lobed, pubescent, adherent to
the ovary; corolla none; stigmas 2.
=Fruit.=--October. Single or in twos or threes at the ends of the
branchlets, abundant, usually rather small, about 1 inch long, the width
greater than the length; occasionally larger and somewhat pear-shaped:
husk separating about to the middle into four segments, with sutures
prominently winged at the top or almost to the base, or nearly wingless:
nut usually thin-shelled: kernel white, sweetish at first, at length
=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy throughout New England; grows almost
anywhere, but prefers a rich, loamy or gravelly soil. A most graceful
and attractive hickory, which is transplanted more readily and grows
rather more rapidly than the shagbark or pignut, but more inclined than
either of these to show dead branches. Seldom for sale by nurserymen or
collectors. Grown readily from seed.
1. Winter bud.
2. Flowering branch.
3. Sterile flower, back view.
4. Sterile flower, front view.
5. Fertile flower.
6. Fruiting branch.