Family: Juglandaceae, walnut family
Genus, species: Carya cordiformis
Leaves are pinnately compound. Each leaf has 7 to 9 leaflets. Leaflets are lance-shaped with saw-toothed edges. Leaflets are usually all about the same size (in comparison to shagbark hickory that has larger leaflets at the end of the leaf).
Bark is smooth on young trees and forms shallow furrows in an x-shaped pattern on older trees.
Male and female flowers are separate but on same tree (monoecious). Flowers are small, green, wind-pollinated, produced in early spring before leaves.
Nuts enclosed in thin husk with yellow scales. Nuts are very bitter, hence the name "bitternut." Nuts are smaller and have thinner husks compared to shagbark hickory nuts.
The genus name Carya is from the Greek for "walnut." In Greek mythology, Carya was a daughter of King Dion. The Greek God, Dionysus, fell in love with Carya, but her two sisters guarded Carya and kept her away from Dionysus. As punishment, Dionysus transformed Carya into a walnut tree.
The species name cordiformis is from the Latin for "heart-shaped."