A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants
Bitternut Hickory, Swamp Hickory
Full to part sun; adaptable to a wide range of moisture levels but best in medium moisture; soils include coarse loamy sands, silt loams, and fine silty or sandy clay; moderately acid to slightly alkaline pH.
50-80 feet height by 30-50 feet spread; yellow-green catkins 3-4 inches long in late April or May; fruits are brown, round nuts in 4-sectional husks in August to October.
Growth Rate: Slow to medium
Maintenance: Infrequent disease and insect problems. Sensitive to root disturbances.
Propagation: Moderately easy from seed. Has an extremely long taproot so should not be left for long in pots.
Native Region: Statewide
Usually a slender tree with rather irregular, cylindrical crown of stiff ascending branches and often widest at the top. Supposedly the fastest growing species of the hickories. Maximum age is around 200 years and is the shortest-lived hickory species. Bright sulfur yellow buds in spring which is a unique feature in the Carya species. Rich golden colored leaves in fall. Native to bottomlands, floodplains and moist slopes.
Birds and mammals love the nuts. Several large species of moths, including Luna moths, feed on the foliage. Also larval food for several species of butterflies.