Ostrya virginiana (American Hophornbeam), is a species of Ostrya native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Manitoba and eastern Wyoming, southeast to northern Florida and southwest to eastern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Other names include eastern hophornbeam, hardhack (in New England), ironwood, and leverwood.
It is a deciduous understory tree growing to 18 m tall and 0.2-0.5 m trunk diameter. The bark is brown to gray-brown, with small shaggy plates flaking off. The leaves are ovoid-acute, 5-13 cm long and 4-6 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are catkins produced in spring at the same time as the new leaves appear; the male catkins are 20-50 mm long, the female 8-15 mm long. The fruit is a small nutlet 3-5 mm long fully enclosed in a papery white involucre 1-1.8 cm long, with 10-30 involucres on each catkin.
Populations along the Atlantic coast have slightly smaller leaves, and are sometimes separated as O. virginiana var. lasia Fernald.
The buds and catkins are important source of winter food for some birds, notably Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus).
It is grown as an ornamental plant and is sometimes used as a street tree.
Its wood is very resilient and is valued for making tool handles and fence posts.
Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostrya_virginiana