Herb: Bitternut

Latin name: Carya cordiformis

Synonyms: Hicoria cordiformis, Juglans cordiformis

Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Medicinal use of Bitternut:

The oil from the seeds has been used in the treatment of rheumatism. The bark is diuretic and laxative.

Description of the plant:


25 m
(82 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Low wet to dry woods, stream banks and borders of swamps, tolerating a range of soils.

Edible parts of Bitternut:

Seed - raw or cooked. Thin shelled but bitter and astringent. Even squirrels tend to pass it over. The seed is about 3cm long. The seed ripens in late autumn and, when stored in its shell in a cool place, will keep for at least 6 months.

Other uses of the herb:

An oil expressed from the seeds has been used as an illuminant in oil lamps. Often used as a potted stock for grafting varieties of pecans (C. illinoensis). Wood - heavy, very hard, strong, elastic, tough, close grained. It weighs 47lb per cubic foot. Although the wood tends to be brittle, it has an amazing quality of shock-resistance and is used for hoops, tool handles etc, though it is considered to be inferior to other hickories. A very good fuel, burning well and giving off a lot of heat.

Propagation of Bitternut:

Seed - requires a period of cold stratification. It is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be kept moist (but not wet) prior to sowing and should be sown in a cold frame as soon as possible. Where possible, sow 1 or 2 seeds only in each deep pot and thin to the best seedling. If you need to transplant the seedlings, then do this as soon as they are large enough to handle, once more using deep pots to accommodate the tap root. Put the plants into their permanent positions as soon as possible, preferably in their first summer, and give them some protection from the cold for at least the first winter. Seed can also be sown in situ so long as protection is given from mice etc and the seed is given some protection from cold (a plastic bottle with the top and bottom removed and a wire mesh top fitted to keep the mice out is ideal)

Cultivation of the herb:

Low wet to dry woods, stream banks and borders of swamps, tolerating a range of soils.

Known hazards of Carya cordiformis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.