Ostrya virginiana – American Hophornbeam

Botanical Name: Ostrya virginiana

Alternate Name: Eastern Hophornbeam, Ironwood

The American Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a medium-sized deciduous tree. It is found growing as an understory tree on dry and rocky slopes in the eastern United States and Mexico. It is named the Hophornbeam because its clusters of seeds look like the pendulous seed pods on hop plants. The American Hophornbeam has a rounded growth habit and grows to a height of 25-40 feet and width of 20-30 feet.

The leaves of this tree are very similar to those of birch trees, since they are in the same family – Betulaceae. They are a soft yellowish-green, up to 5 inches in length, and oval to lance-shaped with sharply serrated margins. The fall color is yellow but unremarkable, and the leaf drop often happens early in the season.

The American Hophornbeam produces both male and female catkins on the same tree. The female flowers are light green catkins, and the male flowers are drooping reddish-brown catkins that persist on the tree throughout winter, providing interest. The fruits follow the female flowers and are attractive hanging seed pods.

No serious disease or insect problems. This tree also has some resistance to deer and drought conditions once established. It likes good drainage, since its origin is growing on rocky slopes. Plant the American Hophornbeam on hillsides to help prevent erosion.


Height: 25-40 ft.
Width: 20-30 ft.
Shape: Rounded and Low Branching
Flower Color: Yellow (male), Light Green (female)
Flowering Time: April
Fall Color: Red-Brown (male), Green (female)
Features: Showy seed pods, good shade tree
Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
Watering: Moderate & Regular
Soil: Prefers slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Somewhat drought tolerant.
Growth Rate: Slow
USDA Zones: 3-9
Uses: Shade tree, street tree, woodland understory tree
Similar Trees: Columnar Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’), JN Strain Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana ‘JN Strain’), Frans Fontain Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’)

Additional information


Rounded, Low Branching

Flower Color

Green, Yellow

Flowering Time


Fall Color

Brown, Green, Red

Growth Rate



Shade Tree, Street Tree, Understory, Woodland

USDA Zones

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Mature Height

20'-30', 30'-40'

Mature Width



Full Sun, Partial Shade

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