A small tree with distinctive smooth dark gray bark. Trunk has a deeply rippled and sinewy look. Gray-green foliage in summer followed by good autumn color of orange and scarlet. Flat top tree with spreading habit, flowers April, fruits/tiny nuts August thru October that are favored by birds and wildlife.
Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam, musclewood, ironwood) is a small hardwood tree. It is also occasionally known as blue-beech. It is native to eastern North America, from Minnesota and southern Ontario east to Maine, and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It also grows in Canada (southwest Quebec and southeast Ontario), Mexico (central and southern), Guatemala, and western Honduras.
It is a small tree reaching heights of 10–15 m, rarely 20 m, and often has a fluted and sinewy trunk. The bark is smooth and greenish-grey, becoming shallowly fissured in old trees. The leaves are alternate, 3–12 cm long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive texture, and a serrated margin. The male and female catkins appear in spring at the same time as the leaves. The fruit is a small 7–8 mm long nut, partially surrounded by a three- to seven-pointed leafy involucre 2–3 cm long; it matures in autumn. The seeds often do not germinate till the spring of the second year after maturating.