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Meet A Tree - Blog

Meet A Tree - Blog

Meet The Ironwood or American Hop-HornBeam - Ostrya virginiana

Posted on 17 November, 2015 at 8:00

The Ironwood which is also known as the American Hop-Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a slow growing deciduous tree with leaves resembling the Elm, though it is actually a member of the Birch (Betula) family. The Ironwood grows in a pyramidal form when young with a crown that broadens with age. The crown height is generally 15-50 feet tall with a spread of 12-30 feet. It grows best in partial shade to full sun and is recommended for hardiness zones 5-9.

Image Citation (Mature Tree): Paul Wray, Iowa State University,


The leaves are simple and oval with sharp doubly serrated edges and veins that are forked at the ends. The leaves are green in color above and a lighter yellow-green below. In the fall the leaves change to a brownish-yellow, mid orange or even sometimes red color. The flowers are Monoecious, the male catkins are usually grouped in threes and are green in color. The bloom time ranges from mid to late spring. The fruit is a brownish to tan color nutlet and enclosed in a hop-like sack. The bark is a Grayish-brown color with narrow rectangular strips which are loose on each end. The bark has a shredded appearance that is very similar to the Shagbark Hickory.

Image Citation (Foliage and Flower): Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,


The wood of Ironwood is hard and durable, in fact the name Ironwood is a direct reference to the strength and durability of the wood. The wood is used for fence posts, fuel, mallets, and tool handles. The bark and inner wood layers were chewed on and made into teas to treat toothaches, sore muscles, coughs, and many other ailments by The Native Americans. The Ironwood also provides winter food for Pheasants, Grouse, Squirrel, Rabbit as well as Whitetail Deer.

Image Citation (Fruit): Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),


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