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Ironwood Ostrya virginiana

Phonetic Spelling
OSS-tree-uh vir-jin-ee-AN-uh
Description

Eastern hop-hornbeam, is a slender deciduous tree in the Betulaceae (beech) family.  The common name is derived from the hardness of its wood and the hop-like fruit. It is found in dry, rocky forests and sloped areas scattered among the upland and mountain regions of North Carolina, although some larger specimens are found in deep, well-drained soils in mixed stands of bottom land hardwood. With a generally rounded to oval top and horizontal drooping branches it may grow 20 to 35 feet tall and have a trunk diameter or 7 to 10 inches, although some specimens can reach 50 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet. A rather slow-growing tree, reaching only 10 to 15 feet tall over 15 years, Eastern hop-hornbeam is a small to medium understory tree that is hardy to zone 3.

The leaves look similar to, and can be confused with birch trees, and its overall form can sometimes be confused with an elm tree.  It is easy to grow and succeeds in most soils, although it thrives in any good loam. It does not demand much light and prefers a partial to deep shade. It tolerates drought and heavy clay soils making it low maintenance and appropriate for urban settings. 

Showy, shaggy bark provides winter interest and a planted row can be pruned to create an interesting hedge. Plant in a lawn, along a driveway, street, or in a woodland garden. Note that the tree does not tolerate salt and would not do well in a seaside environment.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Pest Problems: No serious insect or disease problems although gypsy moths can be a problem.

See this plant in the following landscapes:
English Garden Boxwood Parterre Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#drought tolerant#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#low maintenance#understory tree#street tree#showy fruits#lawn tree#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source herbage#fruits#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#Audubon#woodland garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#drought tolerant#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#low maintenance#understory tree#street tree#showy fruits#lawn tree#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source herbage#fruits#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#Audubon#woodland garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ostrya
    Species:
    virginiana
    Family:
    Betulaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The wood is strong, hard, and durable, and was once used for sleigh runners. Often used to make fence posts, fuel, and tool handles. The inner wood was used to treat toothache, sore muscles, and coughs by Native Americans.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America and Central America
    Distribution:
    Range from Florida west to Texas, northwest to Wyoming, north to Manitoba, east to Nova Scotia. Native to North Carolina.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Possible host plant for Red-spotted Purple and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. Nutlets are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail, and small mammals. Witches' brooms that commonly occur on this tree provide a home to many invertebrates eaten by songbirds, especially during winter.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Moderately resistant to deer damage. Resistant to fire but sensitive to soil compaction.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 8 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Female catkins are followed by drooping clusters of sac-like, seed-bearing pods which, as the common name suggests, somewhat resemble the fruit of hops and persist from summer through winter. The ribbed fruit is a 1/4 inch nutlet is enclosed in a dried, leafy, inflated sac.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Monoecious (male and female) catkins in clusters of three appear on the same tree in April. The male flowers appear as red-brown dropping catkins with scaly bracketed spikes formed from the previous summer; the female flowers appear as light green erect catkins on new twigs. The flowers are not particularly showy, although the male catkins are more prominent and are present throughout winter.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate with a doubly toothed margin and fuzzy stem. Birch-like, oval to lance-shaped, sharply-serrated, dark yellowish-green leaves (to 5 inches long). The leaves turn an undistinguished yellow in autumn and often drop early.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Light Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Lenticels
    Scaly
    Shaggy
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Smooth and reddish brown with lenticiles on young trees. Finely divided thin scale peel away from the trunk. On mature trees, the bark is rough textured with loose scaly plates and grayish brown.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The tree top consists of long slender branches that may droop to the ends.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Drought
    Fire
    Insect Pests