Hop Hornbeam

Hop Hornbeam

Ostrya virginiana

Kingdom: Plant

Phylum: Angiosperm

Class: Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)

Order: Fagales

Family: Betulaceae (Birch)

Genus: Ostrya

Species: virginiana

Where in the OLL?

  • This tree is found at the entrance of the wetland because it likes moist, well drained soil.
  • Can also be found fully grown in the GCC forest.
  • The hop-hornbeam in the Outdoor Learning Lab contributes to the overall beauty in the landscape but it also provides food and shelter for many different species of animals.

Plant growth form

  • Tree
  • Above ground, woody, perennial
  • Can grow to be 50 ft tall, more commonly stays between 30 ft- 40 ft
  • Has a trunk width of 8-20 in
  • In summer the leaves and nuts are green. The fruits have not yet begun to separate from each other and are growing the nut inside.
  • In fall the leaves began to turn orange, and yellow/red-brown. The fruits begin to turn brown and start folding away from the center. They drop and are able to be carried off in the wind.
  • In the dead of winter, the leaves have all dropped and the nuts have either been carried off in the wind or eaten by animals.
  • Leaf shape is oval and edges are double toothed (which is a characteristic of the birch family). The leaf blade length is between 80-100mm. There is one leaf per node (alternate arrangement) and the leaf type is simple. The fruits grow at the end of the stems.


Flowers, fruits & pollinators

  • Flowers of this tree are produced in the form of catkins (long, drooping clusters).
  • Flowers are monoecious, meaning that each flower only contains one type of reproductive structure. One bears pollen, and the other produces ovules that will become seeds. Both types occur on the same tree.
  • The male or pollen producing catkins are reddish brown and larger than the female, or seed bearing catkins, which are green in color.

Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs

  • This tree is highly adaptable and can grow in varied conditions but ideal is full to part sun. In the forest, it usually grows in the understory and is mostly shaded.
  • Moist, well drained soils with a pH level between 4.2-7.6 is ideal.
  • Soils preferred are slightly acidic and made of average composition. No special nutrients required. It adapts to wet, dry, poor, or alkaline soils with a reduced growth rate.
  • Hop-hornbeam can grow a crown that spreads 25-30 feet but can also grow much smaller in the understory. Trees can reach 30-60 ft tall.

Planning & maintenance

  • This tree needs little space as an understory tree and will do well with about 15-30 square feet.
  • No pruning is necessary for this tree because it is slow growing and not aggressive.

Cultivars & propagation

  • There are no cultivars of this plant.
  • It is generally propagated by seed. Seeds are difficult to germinate, however, as they have a double dormancy requirement and also require a long period of moisture.
  • Vegetative propagation is not easy, but cuttings can be rooted in June-July. Grafting and budding have been successful as well.
  • Seedlings are often available through Nasami Farm.

Pests & pathogens

  • No known pest or disease problems but it is sensitive to pollutants like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and chlorine.
  • This tree is very low maintenance and needs little help once established.

Landscape & ecosystem

  • To the landscape it adds fall color and it is a great landscaping tree.
  • This tree is deer and rabbit resistant, as well as tolerant to urban environments and drought, making it an easy tree to care for.
  • For wildlife, the nuts provide winter food for deer, rabbits, and grouse. Song birds live and sing in hop hornbeams and the tree is a host plant for many species of insects as well. This tree is considered a “pollinator powerhouse” meaning it creates a large amount of pollen in the spring.

Human uses

  • Humans have used this tree for its strong, dense wood. It is used to make things such as bows, fence posts, and tool handles. It is difficult to work with making it not a highly desirable wood for general carpentry but more so for carving. Traditionally, the bark and inner wood were used by Native Americans to treat toothaches, muscle pain, and coughs.
  • This tree is also used in ornamental landscaping.
  • Foresters consider it to be a “weed tree” as it is not highly profitable or desirable for commercial use.
  • The wood burns hot and makes a very good firewood once dry.
  • The seeds are not eaten often by humans; however, some foragers love them as a snack. They can be eaten raw or roasted.
Plant catalogued by Nicole Koziara
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