By Suzanne Wodek
Ostrya virginiana, commonly called American hop hornbeam, is a deciduous native understory tree that occurs naturally in dry soils and upland woods and on rocky slopes and bluffs. It is small- to medium-sized with a rounded crown that typically grows 25 to 40 feet tall with a slightly smaller spread. An excellent tree for naturalized landscapes, it can be planted in full sun to partial shade and prefers a slightly acid soil that is moist, fertile and well-drained. Although it is not sensitive to drought, it cannot survive flooding. A word of caution: this member of the birch family is difficult to transplant and slow to establish so choosing the correct site for it when it is young is advised.
Not only do Hop Hornbeams provide year-round interest in your landscape, they are resistant to many disease and insect problems. What I also find appealing is the range of lemon yellow, yellowish orange, copper and red color in the fall.
The seed/fruit clusters resemble true hops used in the production of beer, thus the name. One of the best reasons to plant this tree in your landscape is to provide a winter food source for rabbits, ruffed grouse, downy woodpecker, turkeys, deer, squirrels and several songbirds. The wood is hard and durable and can be used for fence posts, fuel and tool handles. The bark and inner wood were used by Native Americans to treat toothaches, sore muscles, coughs and many other ailments.
Upcoming at the Botanical Gardens
Southern Appalachian Dry Oak Ecosystem Walk with Jason Rodrigue
Saturday, November 3, 1–4 p.m.
Extending from West Virginia to northern Georgia, the dry oak forest community is an intriguing ecosystem with a varied history and composition. Many of the tree species found in the dry oak community are common throughout the southern Appalachian landscape, but combine to form an ecosystem unique unto itself. This program will introduce the common tree species of the dry oak forest providing basic dendrology, ecological traits and other fun facts. Jason Rodrigue holds degrees in Environmental Biology, Resource Management and Forest Soils. He is a forester with the U.S. Forest Service and a silviculturist for the National Forests in North Carolina, which include the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan. Jason’s work includes management of forest communities to maintain and improve their health, enhance habitats, restore and protect desired conditions and supply resources to local economies.
The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Check AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org for a variety of education programs. Educational programs are $15 for members. $20 for non-members. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190