En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - July 22, 2013

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Plant ID from The Woodlands TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Your plant database does not distinguish 2 native tree species. Common names for these 2 trees: American hophornbeam and ironwood or musclewood. These common names are used for both trees - even more confusing. My question is: What is the correct Latin names for the tree with shaggy bark and the tree with smooth muscle-like bark? These trees are definitely different, but your database leaves me confused.

ANSWER:

If you follow this plant link Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) to our webpage on this plant, you will find this sentence:

"The graceful, drooping branches and slender trunk are pale gray, smooth and sinewy with twisting, muscle-like bulges." This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that the American hornbeam is native to Montgomery County.

There are six native North American trees having the common name "ironwood":

1. Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) - discussed above.

2. Lyonothamnus floribundus (Catalina ironwood) - Native Distribution: Only on Santa Rose, Santa Cruz, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente Islands of California; at 500-2000 (152-610 m).

3. Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius (Fernleaf catalina ironwood) - Native Distribution: Channel Islands, CA

4. Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. floribundus (Catalina ironwood) - Native Distribution: South Channel Islands (Santa Catalina Island), California, endemic. Threatened by feral animals.

5. Olneya tesota (Desert ironwood) - Native Distribution: S. AZ, s.e. CA, Sonora & Baja CA
Native Habitat: Foothill washes; low desert areas

6. Ostrya virginiana (Eastern hop-hornbeam) - Loose bark, in narrow, rectilinear strips, covers the often twisting trunk. USDA Plant Profile Map shows this one also native to Montgomery County.

You will notice that only the first, Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam), is in the Betulaceae (Birch) family. I think we are caught up in the "common name" syndrome once again. If you wish to further attempt to distinguish these trees, follow each plant link above to our webpage on that plant, scroll down to "Additional Resources" and click on the link to Google on that plant. We are betting that only Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) and Ostrya virginiana (Eastern hop-hornbeam) are present where you garden, and they are not even closely related to each other.

 

From the Image Gallery


American hornbeam
Carpinus caroliniana

Catalina ironwood
Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. floribundus

Desert ironwood
Olneya tesota

Eastern hop-hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana

More Trees Questions

Live oak leaves yellowing from Denton TX
January 26, 2012 - In autumn of 2010 I planted 10 live oaks about 6 to 7 ft. tall. I have see that during the month of Dec. 2011 to Jan. 2012 they are showing some yellow leaves. What can I do to help them?
view the full question and answer

Black Sap from Live Oak in Austin, Texas
April 20, 2015 - We live in South Austin and our neighbor has several beautiful, enormous Live Oak trees whose canopies hang over into our yard. This past week, they've begun dripping some sort of black sap all over ...
view the full question and answer

Living fence of native plants in Central Texas
December 14, 2008 - I would like to plant a living fence around my property in central Texas. What trees/plants will survive the Texas weather best without taking years to provide visual shield?
view the full question and answer

Are magnolia trees toxic for dogs?
February 05, 2014 - Del Mar, California- are magnolia trees, (their bark, roots, pods) toxic to small dogs? My Westie terriers are exhibiting lack of appetite and diarrea this late winter. Tonight I saw on our local n...
view the full question and answer

Clear pungent, liquid oozing from oak tree
June 28, 2010 - I have a large oak that over the last few days has been oozing a pungent, non sticky, clear substance from one specific site (no damage) about the size of a dime. It's attracting quite a few gnats, m...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center