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.