Bitternut hickory is a large north American native tree, best reserved for larger landscapes. It has large, compound leaves, a one-inch, four-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.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Dry sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Fall color
Season of Interest:
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Cavity-nesting birds,
- Game birds,
- Migrant birds,
- Small mammals,
Tree & Plant Care
Bitternut Hickory prefers deep, moist well-drained soils, 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
Disease, pest and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Commonly found in low, wet areas, but can also grow in dry upland sites.
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.