University of Florida

Ostrya virginiana (American Hophornbeam)

American Hophornbeam

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  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3A - 9A
  • Mature Height: 30 to 35 ft
  • Mature Spread: 25 to 30 ft
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Availability: Somewhat available
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Salt Tolerance: Poor
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Native Origin: Native to Florida.
  • Soil Drainage: Needs a well-drained site.
  • Foliage: Deciduous tree with showy fall color.
  • Flowers: Brown to green, showy flowers in the summer.
  • Pests: The main insect pests are two-lined chestnut borer, scale and basswood leaf miner. The main diseases are canker and leaf blisters.

Description: This shade-tolerant tree slowly grows to about 35 feet in height with a 25 to 30-foot spread forming an oval or round canopy. American Hophornbeam has a lovely yellow-brown fall color, and the small nutlets, which ripen in summer and fall, are used by birds and mammals during the winter. The bark is an attractive orange or grayish brown peeling off in longitudinal strips. The finely-textured crown casts a medium or dense shade in full sun, but is more open in the shade casting a light shadow.

This is a rugged tree, tolerant of poor soil conditions found in urban areas and should be grown and planted more. It can be purchased as a single or multi-trunked specimen. Multi-stemmed trees have a dramatic impact in the landscape with bright bark and wonderful form, great for climbing. American Hophornbeam has a shallow root system and will grow in most soils except those that are wet. It is well adapted to downtown city plantings provided soil drainage is good. Often found on dry, rocky slopes with little soil, American Hophornbeam is quite tolerant of drought and needs little care once established. Locate it close to people so they can enjoy the wonderful bark and foliage.

Gainesville Observations: This is an easy tree to prune to a dominant trunk or multi-trunk because there are many lateral branches along the trunk and in the canopy. It will be easy to prune this plant into a full canopied tree at almost any size. Foliage turns a yellow-brown in drought and in the fall in Gainesville. This drought avoidance mechanism appears to allow the tree to survive typical drought periods experienced in north central Florida.

Fact Sheet (pdf)
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