Hophornbeam in Fruit

One of the common trees around here that I’ve come to really like is the hophornbeam or ironwood, Ostrya virginiana, a member of the birch family. Its fruit, which is plentiful at this time of year, is interesting-looking – the Sibley tree book describes it as “a cluster of pointed papery bladders, each enclosing a seed.” The squirrels and chipmunks love these seeds and they’re going nuts right now collecting all the papery fruits littering the paths. I remember around this time last summer I spotted a chipmunk that had actually climbed high into the canopy of a hophornbeam to harvest the seeds, which made me do a double-take since I tend to think of chipmunks as being mostly ground animals.

Do you have any hophornbeam species where you live?

Also: I promised to post the answers to last Friday’s butterfly quiz. Only one person, Kelli Parke, ventured an answer, getting the Mourning Cloak and coming close on the White Admiral, which she called a blue admiral (perhaps because the colors in the picture I posted weren’t the greatest). As for their interesting adaptations, the Mourning Cloak overwinters as an adult by pumping its tissues full of sugars that serve as natural antifreeze. The White Admiral is part of a species with two completely different-looking subspecies – only part of its range overlaps that of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, and in those areas it mimics the swallowtail and is called the Red-spotted Purple.

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2 thoughts on “Hophornbeam in Fruit”

    1. I have no idea. I would imagine if they’re edible they don’t taste like much, or else we’d all be eating them (like the raspberries!). The seeds are very small, too, and each enclosed in a papery case, so it would be a lot of work to get enough to be worth eating.

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