Thursday, November 10, 2011


In July, Erika and I came upon this fruiting American Hophornbeam (also known as Eastern Hornbeam or Ironwood) along the Cannon Falls city bike trail. This species, often in the forest understory, is found across much of eastern North America, but the tree is not commonly cultivated because it does not tolerate pollutants well (like road salt), grows slowly, and does not transplant easily. This member of the birch family can grow up to 30 feet. The word hop comes from the fruits' resemblance to hops that are used in brewing beer. Hornbeam refers to a similar European tree whose wood was used to make oxen yokes (the wood also is used to make fine fence posts and tool handles). Hophornbeam buds, catkins, and fruits are important food for grouse, turkeys, Purple Finches, grosbeaks, Downy Woodpeckers, and a variety of forest mammals (USDA).

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