It seems inevitable that the most beautifully understated trees are the most underutilized. And one such tree is the Japanese hop-hornbeam, or Ostrya japonica. This tree is one of the most quietly elegant trees available. Its graceful form is rounded and fine-textured, the foliage sharply toothed, profuse and green and turns a clear yellow in autumn. But certainly its most charming feature is the decorative  seed pod or "hop". They dangle from branch tips like multitudes of papery, pale-green "Japanese lanterns" and dance about in the slightest breeze. And the contrast of these pale seed pods against the darker leaves is striking. This is a tree that, when properly sited, proves that, indeed, "less is more". With a marble bench beneath it, one can best admire the golden green light and dappled shade. And there is also the beauty of the pale grey, fluted trunk. Grown on lawns or naturalized in woodland areas remains polished and cool all summer long.
It is slow-growing, typically reaching 25-40 feet tall and a 15 to 20 foot width, in cultivation. It requires little maintenance and is resistant to disease and pests. It is easily grown in average, moist soil in sun to shade. Japanese hop-hornbeam is highly adaptable, growing throughout the UK, most of North America, including Lower Ontario and most of the US as well as New Zealand and temperate Australia. As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

Trees with similar beauty would include the European hornbeam, Carpinus betulus; the American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana; the Japanese loose-flowered hornbeam, Carpinus laxiflora; and the American hop-hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana.

Japanese hop-hornbeam


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