Ostrya virginiana

American Hophornbeam, Ironwood




  • eastern United States
  • zone 4
  • naturally occurs as an understory tree in dry woodlands

Habit and Form

  • a small to medium-sized tree
  • reaches 30' to 50' tall
  • overall shape is ovate to pyramidal when young
  • older trees are rounded
  • branching is upright and spreading
  • old trees exhibit more irregular branching

Summer Foliage

  • simple deciduous leaves
  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • leaves are 2" to 5" long and half as wide
  • more or less oval shape to leaves
  • acuminate leaf tip
  • doubly serrate leaf margins
  • medium to dark green leaves

Autumn Foliage

  • yellowish brown to orange
  • not particularly impressive


  • male flowers are catkins in 3's
  • not highly ornamental


  • small inflated pods in clusters
  • a hard nutlet is inside each pod
  • fruit clusters look like fruit of hops, hence the common name Hophornbeam
  • fruit change from green to tan


  • forms vertical strips which exfoliate at the ends
  • color is gray brown
  • trunks and main branches develop a fluted or "muscle-like" appearance
  • bark and trunk features are ornamentally attractive


  • full sun to partial shade
  • best in slightly acid soil that is moist, cool and fertile
  • can tolerate dry gravelly soils in partial shade once established
  • can be difficult to transplant and slow to establish
  • easily transplanted form containers are B&B

Landscape Use

  • lawn tree
  • street tree
  • naturalistic areas
  • for bark and fruit


  • not tolerant of salt at all
  • avoid roadside or seaside uses
  • can be slow growing
  • slow to establish following transplanting
  • hard to find in trade

ID Features

  • veins on leaves branch before reaching the leaf margin
  • hop-like fruit clusters
  • fluted trunk
  • exfoliating vertical strips of bark


  • by seed


  • none

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.