The American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a deciduous, a small to medium-sized tree that can be found all over the North-Eastern part of America. The bark of the tree is brown to gray-brown, with narrow shaggy plates. The oval to lance-shaped leaves have strong veins and sharply serrated edges. In early summer, the tree has drooping clusters of seed-bearing pods that resemble the fruit of hops. This is a slow-growing tree, very wind-firm.
Scientific Name (order and family): Betulaceae, Ostrya virginiana ( Mill) K. Koch
Species Native Origin: Eastern North America
Habit: 30 – 65’ tall, 9 – 15’ wide; broadly conical. Small tree sometimes divided 2 – 3’ above ground by several stout upright limbs; narrow rounded crown. In older specimens the trunks become sinewy , gnarled , knobby twisted and buttressed. Limestone woods, dry gravelly slopes and ridges, understory of upland forests. Zone 3-9.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray-brown, thin, and covered by fine loose, rectangular flaky scales. scaly. Twigs green turning orange or reddish brown, flexible shiny; finely silky when young.
Leaves: Deciduous, simple, alternate. Ovate to elliptical, 2 – 5” long 2” wide; abrupt apex acuminate to attenuate; base rounded. Margin finely double serrate; blade dull yellow- green glabrous above, lighter with tufts of hair between veins below. Prominent straight pinnate side veins, 12 – 15 pairs. Autumn colors yellow. Petioles short, hairy.
Flowers: Monoecious. Male catkins 2” long yellow drooping; female catkins small ½ – ¾” long reddish-green borne separately the same plant in spring in clusters of 1-3. Early spring.
Fruits and seeds: Fruit is a ¼” long nutlet, flat, ribbed, brown. Each nutlet enclosed in a ovoid, papery, cream colored, inflated husk. The husks hang in 1 ½ to 2” long clusters. The husk opens to release the nut. Notably, the bladder-like seed husks are distinctive, resembling hops, the fruit of the hop vine. The fruit cluster of C. caroliniana is more loosely placed –there is greater separation between the fruiting bracts and each bract is three lobed.