Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Water Hickory - Carya aquatica   (Michaux fils) Elliott
Members of Juglandaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Juglandales » Family Juglandaceae
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Author(Michaux fils) Elliott
DistributionThroughout most of the Coastal Plain, though scarce to absent in the far eastern counties such as on the Pamlimarle Peninsula. Absent from the Sandhills region. Disjunct populations occur in the lower Piedmont of Richmond and Anson counties in backwaters of the Pee Dee River

This is a Southern species primarily restricted to the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. Ranges north to southeastern VA and southeastern MO, and south to southern FL and eastern TX. Not present in the mountains or in most of the Piedmont.
AbundanceSomewhat local or restricted (to rich and often brownwater soils), but can be locally common; however, in general it is infrequent to fairly common. Rare to absent in the far eastern counties and in the Sandhills, where suitable habitats are scarce or wanting. Very local (but many plants) in lower Piedmont of Anson and Richmond counties.
HabitatThough Weakley (2018) and RAB (1968) only indicate “swamp forests”, it is often also found in low bottomlands (that flood briefly), as well as some natural levees, alongside brownwater rivers. Though not restricted to brownwater floodplains, it is most prevalent there, but it can and does grow along some blackwater systems – though preferably where there is much sediment load.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Plain Wet Hardwood Forests
PhenologyFlowers in April and May; fruits in October.
IdentificationThis is one of the least often seen hickories in the state owing to it growing in wetlands and best seen while boating/floating along larger rivers such as the Roanoke. It is a medium to at times tall deciduous tree, ranging to 80-90 feet tall. It has rather slender twigs, and flattened brownish winter buds at the tips of the twigs. It has normally 11-13 quite narrow leaflets, usually lanceolate in shape, to about 3-3.5 inches long. The main confusion comes with separation from Bitternut Hickory (C. cordiformis), which can grow with or near it, but is usually found in less frequently flooded sites, more often on natural levees and drier bottomlands, as well as on adjacent slopes. That species has bright yellow, flattened end buds (like no other woody species in NC), as well as 7-11 (often 9) leaflets that are somewhat wider than on Water Hickory. There are also differences in the husks of the fruit. Other hickories typically have 7 leaflets, occasionally 5 or 9.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Bitter Pecan, Bitter Hickory, Swamp Hickory
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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