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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Eastern Hop Hornbeam

Eastern Hop Hornbeam

(Ostrya virginiana (Mill.) K. Koch)

  Eastern hop hornbearn also is known as ironwood or leverwood. The tree gets it common name from the hardness of its wood and its hop-like fruit. The tree is small and slender with a generally round-topped tree that ranges from 20 to 30 feet high and 7 to 10 inches in diameter. The top consists of long slender branches that commonly droop toward the ends.

Eastern hop hombeam is found mostly as a scattered tree throughout the upland and mountain regions. Some larger specimens are found on deep, well-drained soils in mixed stands of bottomland hardwoods.

The bark is light brown or reddish-brown and is finely divided into thin scales that peel away from the trunk. The leaves are simple, alternate, generally oblong with narrowed tips and sharply toothed along the margin (sometimes doubly toothed) and they range in length from 2 to 4 inches long.

There are two kinds of flowers on the same tree: the male, in drooping catkins (scaly, bracted spikes) which form the previous summer; and the female, in erect catkins on the newly formed twigs.

The fruit consists of a nutlet enclosed in an oval, flattened, papery sac (attached in cone-like clusters). It makes good food for wildlife.

The wood is strong, hard and durable; it is light brown to white, with thick, pale sapwood. Eastern hop hornbearn often is used for tool handles, mallets and other small articles. A row of young hop hombeams can be pruned to develop into an attractive hedge.
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