blue-beech, ironwood, water beech

Carpinus caroliniana Walter

American hornbeam is a small-sized, bushy tree, found frequently along watercourses and the edges of swamps generally throughout the state. It is rarely more than 6 inches in diameter. The wood is very heavy, hard, strong, close-grained, and is occasionally used for mallets on account of its hardness.

Bark - smooth, thin, dark bluish gray in color, close-fitting, with smooth, rounded lengthwise ridges that resemble tensed muscles.

Twigs - very slender, dark red in color, and shining.

Winter buds - terminal bud absent; lateral buds small, often angled in cross-section, narrowly ovate, pointed, covered with many reddish brown scales.

Leaves - simple, alternate, ovate, 2 to 4 inches long, finely and doubly serrate on margin.

Fruit - a small prominently ribbed nutlet, 1/3 inch long, enclosed in a 3-lobed leaf-like bract. Bracts with their enclosed nutlets are in long, drooping clusters which ripen and fall before winter.

Distinguishing features - "muscles" in bark; fruit a nutlet enclosed in 3-part "dress."

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