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Eastern Hophornbeam Ostrya virginiana


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Eastern Hophornbeam
credit: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service/CCSA

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Alternate name: Hophornbeam, Rough-barked Ironwood

Family: Betulaceae, Birch view all from this family

Description Ostrya virginiana (American Hophornbeam), is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Manitoba and eastern Wyoming, southeast to northern Florida and southwest to eastern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Other names include eastern hophornbeam, hardhack (in New England), ironwood, and leverwood.

It is a deciduous understory tree growing to 18 m tall and 0.2–0.5 m trunk diameter. The bark is brown to gray-brown, with small shaggy plates flaking off. The leaves are ovoid-acute, 5–13 cm long and 4–6 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are catkins produced in spring at the same time as the new leaves appear; the male catkins are 20–50 mm long, the female 8–15 mm long. The fruit is a small nutlet 3–5 mm long fully enclosed in a papery white involucre 1–1.8 cm long, with 10–30 involucres on each catkin.

Populations along the Atlantic coast have slightly smaller leaves, and are sometimes separated as O. virginiana var. lasia Fernald.

The buds and catkins are important source of winter food for some birds, notably Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus).

Habitat Mountains, Canyons & valleys, Cities, suburbs & towns.

Range Texas, Southeast, Plains, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, New England, Rocky Mountains, Eastern Canada.

Comments Hophornbeam is appropriate for shady locations but also does well in sun, developing a broader crown there. It is not sensitive to drought but will not tolerate flooding. Resistant to insects (except the gypsy moth), disease, wind, ice, and most stresses of urban living. Notoriously sensitive to salt. Slow-growing.

Exposure Preference Shade to partial shade .

Native Distribution Nova Scotia to Florida Panhandle, w. to Manitoba, e. North Dakota, e. Kansas & e. Texas; also Crook County, Wyoming

Site Preference Well-drained, deciduous woods

Soil Preference Rich, well-drained soils. pH 6.1-8.

Wildlife Value Some food value to songbirds and small mammals.