Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

American Hophornbeam, Ironwood, Eastern Hophornbeam

American Hophornbeam, Ironwood, Eastern Hophornbeam

Ostrya virginiana

Full to part sun; medium to moderately dry moisture level; adapted to a variety of soils including moderately coarse sandy loams, loams to fine sandy clays, silt clays and heavy clay; slightly acid to alkaline pH.

20-50 feet height by 15-30 feet spread; red-brown (males) and light green (females), short, slender catkins in groups of 3 at the end of the twigs in May; tan-brown, ½ inch long nutlet enclosed in ¾ – 1 inch long bracts in late June through late October.

Growth Rate: Slow to moderate

Maintenance: Infrequent disease and insect problems. Limit pruning to fall and early winter; avoid pruning in spring when wounds will weep. Wood is very strong and resistant to ice and wind damage.

Propagation: Seeds have a dormancy that is difficult to overcome. Requires warm and then cold treatment for 4-5 months.

Native Region: Statewide

Very graceful, medium-sized tree with horizontal or drooping branches and one of the hardiest and toughest trees of our native woods. Member of the Birch family. An important understory tree in eastern forests. One of the few understory trees capable of surviving both shade and dry soil and performs well in city plantings. Attractive trunk that looks like sinewy muscles. Fruit is a nutlet which resembles the fruit of hops, hence the common name. Dark green foliage that turns lemon yellow, yellowish brown or red in fall. Retains its coppery-tan leaves well into or through winter, which provides an appealing winter charm. Will grow in a range of conditions as long as soil is acidic and not waterlogged. Will readily adapt to wet, dry, poor or alkaline soils but has a slightly reduced growth rate.

Seed provides some food for songbirds who also use the tree for nesting. Host plant for the Mourning Cloak butterfly.

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