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Carya cordiformis

Carya cordiformis - bitternut hickory, or swamp hickory

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The majestic hickories must number among the noblest of the broadleaf species, together with the walnuts (Juglans). In the eastern parts of North America they are prized both for their habit and for their valuable timber. It is hard, durable and flexible with many uses: in joinery, for tools, bows and skis, not to mention its qualities for smoking and for grilling charcoal. Some of the hickory species also produce tasty nuts, the best-known being the pecan (Carya illinoensis).

Bitternut has the northernmost range of the genus, growing as far north as southern Canada. It is also one of the few hickories grown in Finland: Arboretum Mustila has brought seeds back from several collecting expeditions during the 1990s. As the name suggests, the nuts taste very bitter and aren’t really edible. But the tree is relatively fast-growing and undemanding, developing into a handsome specimen not only at Mustila but in the gardens of several enthusiasts in southern Finland. A colourful detail and at the same time excellent means of identification are the sulphur-yellow scale-less winter buds.

 

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