American Hop Hornbeam

American Hornbeam leaf
Common Name:
American Hop Hornbeam
Botanical Name:
Ostrya virginiana
Bloom Time:
June, May
Bloom Description:
The flowers are a grouping of three brown catkins, 1” long (male). The female flowers appear on a scaly cone and when pollinated, the seeds ripen in a papery pod that resembles hops.
Trail/Garden Location:
Garden Uses:
Best used as an understory tree in dry, rocky soil conditions.
Wildlife Benefits:
Deer and rabbits browse on the tender vegetation while grouse and quail eat the nutlets.
Leaf Type:
The oval-shaped leaves are 2-5” long and 2-2 ½” wide. The leaves change from a dark green to an uneventful yellow in the fall. The blades of the leaves are lined with thin, irregular serrations.
Further Information:


NARRATOR: Director of Operations Scott Eccleston talks with Museum Founder Alice Walton about her plan to use native plants in the museum’s landscape, and describes the challenge and triumph of finding native hophornbeam trees for the museum grounds.

SCOTT ECCLESTON: You threw me for the loop of the century when you said that the museum is going to be tucked into a ravine, and so the landscape has the opportunity to set the tone. You said, “I want to use native plants.” I went back to you and I said, “Okay, native plants it is. No one carries them, but we have to figure it out.” So we created a plant list, but there was one tree, it’s called the American hophornbeam. I’d about given up trying to find the tree until I get a call in 2012 from McMinnville, Tennessee. The man on the other line said, “Mr. Eccleston, I hear that you’re looking for some American hophornbeams. Would you be willing to come to Tennessee and see if this would work?” I said, “This is the last tree I need.” I said, “I will go.” So he hired a group to take a machete. The weeds were so tall and we walked through this tunnel. And there were these trees that I had been… searched for, for two years. It’s a native tree, and it was a challenge that you put out there. It was your passion, and I wanted to see it through. And the crazy thing is, the weeds had grown so tall they had stunted the trees. But if it wasn’t for those trees being stunted, they would have been too large for us to ever remove.

ALICE WALTON: Isn’t that amazing.

SCOTT ECCLESTON: So they were captured in time. And that began the story of our native plants.

ALICE WALTON: Oh my gosh.


NARRATOR: Trails and Grounds Manager, Clay Bakker explains Crystal Bridges’ environmentally friendly groundskeeping policy of substituting organic compost for chemical fertilizers.

CLAY BAKKER: When we started, we used traditional methods in fertilization, pest control and so forth. Because, the industry was just more familiar with these types of products. But it didn’t take long for us to realize that if we had a mission, by planting native plants, then we should probably take care of them in the most natural way possible. So we began to explore the world of commercial level organic gardening. So as a department, we are working to free ourselves from synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pest control and so forth. 2012, we started a program of composting. We obviously have a tremendous amount of organic material that comes from perennial cut back, ornamental grass cut back, grass clippings. We have tremendous amount of leaves to work with.

Also, catering and restaurant provide us with a tremendous amount of more green, if you will, organic material that definitely helps the composting process, really it’s the faster breakdown component. The first sort of batch, if you will, of compost that we produced, we did some test trials around the grounds. Utilizing natural compost on the grounds is a long process, to really get the benefit. It’s not as fast as a synthetic fertilizer is. But it is more natural and we hope more, ultimately more healthy for the grounds overall. Those synthetic fertilizers, while they give us a quick punch for the turf or the plants that we want, there is indication that that quick punch at the same time hurts the soil around it and then creating a dependency.

So the idea with the organic compost and so forth, is that we create a better living environment in the soil. We hope that this is a start of a really great process that is a natural, more environmentally friendly way of, not only maintaining but exemplifying our grounds that much more.