Bitternut hickory is a large north American native tree, best reserved for larger landscapes. It has large, compound leaves, a 1-inch, 4-part nut, and yellow fall color. Like all hickories, debris from its fruit drops from late summer throughout autumn, making fall cleanup in urban areas more challenging.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area
- North America
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Dry sites
- Occasional drought
- Wet sites
- Occasional flooding
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Wet soil
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Early fall
- Mid fall
Size and Form
50 to 75 feet high and 30 to 40 feet wide; upright, oval form
Tree & Plant Care
Bitternut Hickory prefers deep, moist soils that range from poorly drained to well-drained, but is often found in drier conditions.
Spring transplant only; develops a long taproot, making it difficult to transplant.
Like all hickories, debris from its fruit drop from late summer throughout autumn, making fall cleanup in urban areas more challenging.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious problems
Native geographic location and habitatphoto: John Hagstrom
Commonly found in low, wet areas, but can also grow in dry upland sites.
Attracts birds & butterflies
Larval host for the banded hairstreak butterfly.
Bark color and texture
Gray green bark with tight narrow ridges; older bark scaly.
Bright yellow terminal buds, showy in winter.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, compound leaves have 7-11 lance-shaped leaflets
Leaves yellow-green with serrate margins, paler underneath.
Fall color is yellow brown.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Relatively inconspicuous; tiny male flowers in drooping clusters of catkins; small green female flowers in spikes.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruits are nuts with four-winged husks and are thin-shelled.
Bitter nut, non-edible.