Bitter Pecan

Water hickory, swamp hickory, and bitter pecan are all common names for Carya aquatica, a large, deciduous tree of floodplain forests. It ranges from southern central Florida to the eastern Carolinas and westward to eastern Texas.

We saw this tree with unripe fruits when we visited the South Prong Slough property on 5/15/2022.

Its alternate leaves are pinnately compound with 7 to 17 lance-shaped leaflets with finely toothed margins (edges).

Flowering occurs in the early spring. Male flowers are held in dangling stalked catkins on branches of the current or previous year, and the female flowers are in short spikes or stalks.

When ripe the 1 – 1 1/2″ fruits will be dark brown. A thin-shelled husk will encase the fruit and will split along four seams to release the in the fall of the same year. Ducks, squirrels, and other other wildlife consume the bitter nuts.

The bark of young trees is grey or light brown with narrow cracks and often is festooned with lichens, as above. The bark of older trees often becomes shaggy with flaking plates, as shown below in photos taken at Cypress Bend Community Preserve …

Older trunks in wetter spots can become buttressed …

Water hickory grows in full sun or partial shade and could be a wonderful addition to your yard if you have a spot with moist, rich soil and the space for a large, tall tree.

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