Hornbeam Blue Beech Ironwood Water Beech
=Habitat and Range.=--Low, wet woods, and margins of swamps.
Province of Quebec to Georgian bay.
Rather common throughout New England, less frequent towards the coast.
South to Florida; west to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indian
territory, and Texas.
=Habit.=--A low, spreading tree, 10-30 feet high, with a trunk diameter
of 6-12 inches, rarely reaching 2 feet; trunk short, often given a
fluted appearance by projecting ridges running down from the lower
branches to the ground; in color and smoothness resembling the beech;
lower branches often much declined, upper going out at various angles,
often zigzag but keeping the same general direction; head wide, close,
flat-topped to rounded, with fine, slender spray.
=Bark.=--Trunk smooth, close, dark bluish-gray; branchlets grayish;
season's shoots light green turning brown, more or less hairy.
=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Leaf-buds small, oval or ovoid, acute to
obtuse. Leaves simple, alternate, 2-3 inches long, dull green above,
lighter beneath, turning to scarlet or crimson in autumn; outline ovate
or slightly obovate oblong or broadly oval, irregularly and sharply
doubly serrate; veins prominent and pubescent beneath, at least when
young; apex acuminate to acute; base rounded, truncate, acute, or
slightly and unevenly heart-shaped; leafstalk rather short, slender,
hairy; stipules pubescent, falling early.
=Inflorescence.=--May. Sterile flowers from growth of the preceding
season in short, stunted-looking, lateral catkins, mostly single; scales
ovate or rounded, obtuse, each subtending several stamens; filaments
very short, mostly 2-forked; anthers bearded at the tip: fertile flowers
at the ends of leafy shoots of the season, in loose catkins; bractlets
foliaceous, each subtending a green, ovate, acute, ciliate, deciduous
scale, each scale subtending two pistils with long reddish styles.
=Fruit.=--In terminal catkins made conspicuous by the pale green, much
enlarged, and leaf-like 3-lobed bracts, each bract subtending a
dark-colored, sessile, striate nutlet.
=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy throughout New England; prefers moist,
rich soil, near running water, on the edges of wet land or on rocky
slopes in shade. Its irregular outline and curiously ridged trunk make
it an interesting object in landscape plantations. It is not often used,
however, because it is seldom grown in nurseries, and collected plants
do not bear removal well. Propagated from the seed.
1. Winter buds.
2. Flowering branch.
3. Sterile flower, back view.
4. Sterile flower, front view.
5. Fertile catkin.
6. Fertile flower.
7. Fruiting branch.
Inflorescence.--In scaly catkins, sterile and fertile on the same tree,
appearing with or before the leaves from shoots of the previous
season,--sterile catkins terminal and lateral, formed in summer, erect
or inclined in the bud, drooping when expanded in the following spring;
sterile flowers usually 3, subtended by a shield-shaped bract with 2
bractlets; each flower consisting of a 1-scaled calyx and 2 anthers,
which appear to be 4 from the division of the filaments into two parts,
each of which bears an anther cell: fertile catkins erect or inclined at
the end of very short leafy branchlets; fertile flowers subtended by a
3-lobed bract falling with the nuts; bractlets none; calyx none; corolla
none; consisting of 2-3 ovaries crowned with 2 spreading styles.
=Betula lenta, L.=
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