August 2022 - American Eastern hophornbeam

Common Name:  Eastern hophornbeam, Hophornbeam, Ironwood, Leverwood, Wooly Hop-Hornbeam

Botanical Name: Ostrya virginiana 

Native Range: Zone 3-9 Native through Western and Eastern United States 

Height: 25’-40’. The national champion was reported to be 56’

Spread: 2/3 the height  

Form: Pyramidal when young becoming oval in age.

Growth Rate: Slow with a rate of 10’ to 15’ over a 15-year period

Sun: Partial shade to full sun.

Soil: Prefers moist soil rich in composted material but can adapt to dry, alkaline soil with a shower growth rate.

Leaf Description: Simple alternate, rounded/heart-shaped leaves described as dark green and hairy between prominent veins. 

Fall Color: Yellow

Flower Description: Male catkins are usually grouped in 3’s about 1” long. Male catkins are visible in winter while female catkins appear in April.

Fruit: Generally described as a nutlet enclosed in a hop-like sac that provides the ‘hop’ in its name. Ornamental sacs appear in late summer and persist through fall.

Bark Description: Gray-brown broken into narrow strips resulting in a shaft effect that provides winter interest.

Wildlife Benefit: Provides shelter and food for several species of butterflies.  The nutlets are enjoyed by several bird species and small mammals. Witch's broom and canopy provide shelter for birds in winter.

Tolerates: Acid soil, compacted soil

Possible Insects and Disease: Generally free of insect and other disease issues with the exception of ‘witches’ broom ‘which is described as masses of small twiggy growths.


Uses: Terrific tree for naturalizing with existing wooded parcels of land either as an edge or understory element. Difficult to transplant, when possible, purchase smaller container-grown trees. Drought and urban soil tolerant so it can be used for tough sites. 

Where to be found on municipal property:  There is a Hop Hornbeam in the parking lot area at Greenway Meadows, next to the Johnson Education Center. 

Additional Facts: 

  • The wood is strong, hard, and durable.
  • The inner wood was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.
  • Particularly resistant to deer damage
  • Sensitive to soil compaction.
  • The fruit ripens in late August.
  • Described as a medium size, attractive tree that can be grown in areas sensitive to flooding.
  • Hop hornbeams host both male and female flowers.


Dirr, M.A. 2009. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.6th ed. Stipes Pub. Champaign, Il.




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