Here is a beautiful tree that is easily grown, pest and disease free, shade-tolerant and of a size that most any garden can accommodate it, and yet it is hardly ever grown. This is the American hop hornbeam, or Ostrya virginiana, which is a deciduous, North American native tree typically found growing in dry soils on rocky slopes, upland woods and high bluffs. It is small to medium-sized, and grows 25 to 40 tall with a nice rounded spread. It has birch-like leaves (it is in the Birch family -Betulaceae), oval to lance-shaped, sharply-serrated, and dark yellowish-green to 5 inches long. The leaves turn yellow/orange in autumn and drop early. The flowers are not particularly showy, but the female catkins are followed by drooping clusters of sac-like, seed-bearing pods which, as the common name suggests, resemble the fruit of hops. These are ivory colored and stand out tastefully against the dark green foliage.

Hornbeam is rarely seen in the nursery trade and typically only found in arboreta and connoisseur gardens. It is an elegant shade tree that is suitable as a specimen for the lawn, street, or woodland garden. In cultivation it is normally found growing to only 25 feet tall.

It is highly tolerant and adaptable, growing in most soil types and climate zones. It requires little maintenance or effort. But despite its beauty and ease of culture it will only be found in specialty nurseries.

In North America it grows from Canada to Florida and is well-adapted to the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

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 Japanese hop-hornbeam, Ostrya japonica.

Hop hornbeam


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