American hornbeam, also known as blue-beech, ironwood, or musclewood, is a small, native tree that seldom exceeds 30 feet in height. Its fruit is a small, egg-shaped nut. Its main distinguishing characteristic is its smooth, blue-gray bark (similar to a beech) that often appears twisted or contoured like muscles. Though not seen often in landscape settings, this flood-tolerant tree is common in Delaware’s forests.
Hornbeam has flowers that appear along with the leaves around April. It produces a small egg-shaped nut eaten by forest rodents and birds. Hornbeams can be attractive ornamentals with beautiful fall color.
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