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Grow a Native Musclewood - Carpinus caroliniana

Add some year-round interest to your landscape with the North American native Carpinus caroliniana.

Also known as hornbeam and musclewood, this small-scale tree is hardy in zones 4 to 9 and is native from Nova Scotia to Minnesota, south to Florida, Texas and into Mexico and Central America. 

The smooth gray bark has fluted ridges that resemble flexed muscles. Unique leafy flowers appear before the leaves and clusters of leafy nutlets persist into winter.

The new growth is bronze to purple and eventually turns dark green. In fall, the leaves brighten the landscape as leaves turn yellow, orange, red or reddish purple. Select a cultivar like JN Select, Ball ‘O Fire or Firespire known for their shape and outstanding fall color.

This slow-growing tree tolerates shade and periodic flooding. It eventually grows 20 to 30 feet tall.

A bit more information: Another native shade tolerant tree to consider is Ostrya virginiana. Known as ironwood or American hophornbeam it makes an attractive addition to the landscape thanks to its form, the flaky bark, hop-like fruit and yellow fall color.