The American hornbeam is also known as “musclewood” because its bark has taut, shallow fissures that mimic the texture of muscle. As stout as its nickname implies, the hornbeam is able to survive in plenty of shade, which makes it a great addition to shady areas that other trees would struggle with.
More detail: American Hornbeam’s Tree of the Month.
Alternate, 3–12 cm long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive corrugated texture, and a serrated margin
Flowers are on small greenish catkins, about one and a half inches long
Small, oval-shaped, hairy, and green fruits hang in clusters from a shared stalk
Brown-colored and slender with alternating leaves
Smooth and greenish-grey, becoming shallowly fissured in old trees
Broad base, becoming round at the top
20 to 40 feet
Native to eastern North America, from Minnesota and southern Ontario east to Maine, and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It also grows in Canada (southwest Quebec and southeast Ontario).
Small deciduous tree
Turns to bright orange and red on the fall
Grows in moist to wet soils and commonly occurs in swamps, along streams, and in wet bottomlands
Prefers shade to partial shade
European hornbeam, Oriental hornbeam, Japanese hornbeam
Pests and Diseases
The American hornbeam is generally resistant to pests and diseases.
Hornbeams yield a very hard timber that give it the alternate name “ironwood.”
American hornbeam is an important food of gray squirrels in southern bottom-land hardwoods.