My sister bought a new house this year. There's a tree in the yard that we can't identify. It's located in Mid-Michigan in zone 5a. The soil is mixed with rocks and sand.

The tree has shaggy bark similar to Shagbark Hickory, but the tree produceds a catkin and not a nut. The leaves (4 or 5 inches long) are pointed ovals with serations.

What is it?

Trunk Leaf and branch Leaf and Catkin More leaves Tree shape Better Picture of leaf and catkin

Pictures taken in mid Sept, 2018.

2 Answers 2


Elms don't have catkins and have alternate leaves and U. thomasii is quite uncommon in cultivation (I've never seen it in the trade). I think it's more likely to be an Ostrya, perhaps O. virginiana. The bark on your tree is somewhat shaggier than I would've expected, though. Since the flowers and fruits are quite distinctive, these photos should help with the ID. Please let me know if I'm incorrect and I'll delete this post to clean up the site.

Flowers (O. virginiana)

Fruits (O. carpinifolia, but representative of the genus)

Leaves (O. carpinifolia)

Form (O. carpinifolia)

Bark (O. carpinifolia)

  • Bark almost looks like a silver maple, but that's absurd. Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 14:31
  • The catkins are still tight at this time. When they open up I can compare the fruit to your picture. I'll also try to get another picture.
    – B540Glenn
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 14:43
  • I found uky.edu/hort/American-Hophornbeam that appears to be a match to our tree. I also added a better picture of leaf and catkin. Thanks for you help.
    – B540Glenn
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 17:54
  • Here's a nice identification guide for Ostrya Virginiana dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/….
    – MackM
    Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 13:50

It is Ostrya virginiana. Eastern Hop Hornbeam. Not to be confused with American Hornbeam. An incredibly strong and hard wood. One of the strongest in the states. They used to use it to make hockey sticks before they started using composites.

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