Family: Betulaceae, birch family
Genus, species: Ostrya virginiana
Leaves are oblong, ovate. Leaf edges are doubly-toothed. Leaf veins branch several times between center and edge of leaf. Leaves look similar to leaves of ironwood.
Bark is scaly, rough, becomes more shredded on older trees. Tree is also known as "catscratch" because bark looks like a cat scratching post. Ironwood, in comparison, has smooth bark.
Male and female flowers are separate but on same tree (monoecious). Male flowers are greenish, 2 to 4 inches long, hang in narrow cylindrical clusters. Female flowers are reddish-green, 1 to 2 inches long, hang in narrow clusters. Flowers are produced before leaves emerge.
Fruits are brown hanging clusters. Each fruit is composed of multiple flat papery sacs.
Seeds are nutlets, enclosed within brown papery sacs.
The common name, hop hornbeam, is based on resemblance of the fruit to hops. Ostrya is from the Greek for "hard," referring to hard wood of tree. The species name, virginiana, literally means "from Virginia."