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They don't call it "Musclewood" for nothing! American Hornbeam, a.k.a. "Musclewood," has smooth-barked limbs as taut and rippled as an elite athlete's, and you'll find yourself wanting to touch them! This small to medium sized ornamental tree lends a sense of quiet strength to the landscape and will bring to your garden the much-needed "structure" that landscape designers talk so much about. With its powerful form, natural elegance, compact size, and ravishing fall color, it might even be compared to a Japanese Maple. Unlike Japanese Maple, though, this Hornbeam is a native tree of much greater value to local wildlife. The beautiful tiger swallowtail butterfly is one such creature that benefits from its presence.
- Hardiness Zone: 3-9
- Spacing: 20-25'
- Exposure: Sun or Shade
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Recommended by Our Growers
Perhaps you know American Hornbeam by one of its other names: Blue Beech, Water Beech, Ironwood, or Musclewood. Quite likely you have seen it on a hike through the woods—once encountered, it is seldom forgotten. Its trunk, like rippling muscles under a thin skin of bark, begs to be touched, and its fiery fall color rivals that of some maples. American Hornbeam is found in wild spaces all over the Eastern U.S and even into Canada and Mexico, but nowhere is it common in landscapes. That needs to change!
The good ol' American Hornbeam, this native hardwood is not subject to cracking or splitting and was used by American pioneers for bowls and dishes. There's your history lesson for the day! Green foliage transforms into shades of yellow, orange, and red in fall - a bright contrast to the smooth gray bark. Grows best in partial shade but will also grow in full sun.
How to Grow
This Country Mouse is sensitive to some of the grittier elements of city life—salt, pollution, baking sun—but with a little thought to its siting and aftercare, it is a remarkably trouble-free tree. Surely it is adaptable if it has established itself from Canada to Mexico! If your lot affords no shade, American Hornbeam is still an option if you can supply plenty of water; in fact, even occasional flooding is OK for this species. Fall color and the bronzy new foliage in spring will be brighter in sun.
This graphic shows the approximate size and form of the Tree you are viewing.
Size A Trees:
4-5' tall, grown and delivered in a grow bag container. Although one person can move this size tree its root mass, stem, and overall branching prevent it from shipping in a box. A van or SUV will be needed to bring this tree home.
Size B Trees:
6-8' tall, grown and delivered in a container. Although one strong person can lift this size tree two would make it much easier. A truck or trailer will be needed to haul home to your landscape.
Size C Trees:
10-12' Tall, very large, grown and delivered as balled and burlapped. This tree is going to be one of your landscape all stars from the moment you plant it.
Size D Trees:
12-14' Tall. This tree is HUGE! Grown and delivered as balled and burlapped and very mature, this tree is looking to thrive and be a staple in your landscape! It is recommended a tree this size be moved and installed by a professional.
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