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Hop Hornbeam

Latin: Ostrya virginiana

Family: Betulaceae

Description - grows 7 - 12 metres in height. Thrives in the understory in dense shade. Also known as Ironwood, it’s trunk resembles the ripple of human muscles (musclewood). A slender, straight trunk mainly free of branches for much of its length. Conical in shape spreading wide and rounded.


Leaf - simple, alternating, oval, tapered to a long tip. Each vein runs straight to a large tooth on the margin with smaller teeth between veins. Margins are double serrated with teeth incurved. Underside very hairy at first, then tufted in axils.


Bark - young bark is smooth, birch-like (similar to blue or yellow birch). With age, turns grey brown and splits into flaky, narrow, vertical strips.


Bud - pointed buds spread away from the twig and are ovoid and acute.


Twig - light green, hairy at first and changes to orange and lustrous by first year. Turns dark brown when mature.


Flower - Male and female flowers are in separate clusters on the same tree. Male flowers grow in drooping catkins in threes. Female grow reddish green catkins at tips of new shoots.


Fruit - light brown tear shaped nut in a hairy, flat, papery sac. The sacs, clustered in groups of 4-20, resemble hops. The nut is a winged nutlet in brown bladder. Fruit stems may be seen at end of branchlets left when sacs fall in winter.


Habitat - grows in well drained soils and is intolerant of flooding.


Wildlife Value - birds, squirrels, small rodents eat the nuts. Buds, including the catkins, are winter food for various animals. Twigs and foliage are food for deer and rabbits. A favourite of the gypsy moth caterpillar.


Wood - also known a Ironwood due to the hardness. In the past, it was used for sleigh runners.


1-888-773-2955 ​​ 

48075 Jamestown Line R.R. #2, Aylmer ON N5H 2R2

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