En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plant ID from The Woodlands TX

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 Plant Identification Questions

Plant ID from Beaumont TX
August 13, 2010 - I live in Beaumont Texas and have some trees on the land I hunt that look like a yaupon but put on a small blue berry that the deer devour in December. I have looked and searched the Internet but hav...
view the full question and answer

plant identification
June 27, 2010 - I don't know if this plant is native, but it is a volunteer. It is a spiny , cane producing bramble . It produces tight clusters of inconspicuous fluffy reddish pink flowers about a centimeter acros...
view the full question and answer

Mystery plant in Vicksburg, MS
May 20, 2008 - I have a strange plant that has come up by a ditch next to my house. I've lived here 23 years and have never seen anything like it. I can only guess that it came up from a packet of wildflower seed...
view the full question and answer

Safe distance from foundation for Sycamore from Preston UK
August 24, 2011 - What would be the safe distance to have a sycamore tree near your house so it doesn't affect the foundations?
view the full question and answer

Identifying a plant/weed blooming in Feb. in Texas
February 24, 2010 - Can you help me identify a flowering plant I have found growing in my yard? It is a tiny green plant most months of the year, with very tiny deep to pastel blue flowers on it in early spring ( it is i...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center