American hornbeam

Image By Rob Duval - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam)

This tree has interesting common names, including musclewood and ironwood, which refer to its very hard wood and smooth, sculpted bark. "Hornbeam" was originally applied to the European version of this tree and literally means much the same thing--"beam" is the old word for tree and "horn" refers to how very hard the wood is. Yet another common name, blue beech, arose because the smooth bark resembles that of beech trees, but has a kind of bluish tint in certain light. 

Hornbeams are slow-growing trees that are happy in the shade of larger dominant trees, and they generally gets 20-30 ft tall with a kind of flattened crown.  As a member of the birch family, the American hornbeam bears its flowers in catkins early in the spring. with both male and female catkins on the same tree.  When they are mature, the female catkins develop into long clusters of wing-like seeds that are spread by the wind. The leaves have attractive fall color, and like other birch relatives, the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.  

Several bare-root specimens were planted along Vine Creek in 2021.