A tree 80 or more ft high in the wild, the bark of old trees broken irregularly into thin appressed plates; young shoots slender, covered with tiny yellowish glossy scales. Leaves 7 to 14 in. long, made up of five to eleven leaflets which are almost or quite stalkless, the terminal one the largest, of obovate outline, 3 to 5 in. long; the smaller side ones are of more lanceolate shape; all are finely, evenly, sharply toothed, slender-pointed, dull dark green and thinly scaly above, covered with silvery-white scales beneath. Male catkins in threes, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long. Nut oval or egg-shaped, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long.
Native of the S.E. United States; discovered in 1802 by the younger Michaux, the French botanist and traveller; introduced in 1911. It is described as a handsome tree in its native haunts, where it often occurs on limestone, but I know of small trees only in this country. Sargent observes that the 'lustrous undersurface of the leaves makes it perhaps the most beautiful of the hickories'. It is hardy but slow-growing at Kew. The popular name refers to the hard, furrowed, nutmeglike shell of the nut.
C. cathayensis Sarg. – This species was discovered by F. N. Meyer in 1915 in the province of Chekiang, China, and is also reported from Kweichow. Its discovery was of particular interest in adding one more instance to those revealed in recent times of a genus previously thought to be confined to N. America, having a representative in China. Since then two other species have been discovered in Yunnan and Indo-China. Similar evidence of the remarkable affinity between the floras of China and eastern N. America is also provided by the following genera: Decumaria, Liriodendron, Nyssa, Sassafras, and Symphoricarpos, of all of which a single or two species have been found in China. The Chinese hickory is a tree up to 60 or 70 ft high, with leaves made up of five or seven leaflets. It is considered to be most nearly allied to C. myristiciformis.