The American hornbeam is a native tree that has an unusual ability to tolerate lots of shade. This makes it the perfect specimen to live underneath our canopy of trees at Madison Square Park. The ‘J. N. Globe’ cultivar was chosen for the park because of its lovely rounded shape and intense orange and red fall foliage. Its nickname, Musclewood, comes from the appearance of the tree’s bark, which seems to ripple like a flexing bicep. Its catkins (cylindrical flower clusters) and young leaves emerge in the warm spring weather.
Many birds flock to the park to feed on the tree’s nuts, while its dense foliage creates an impenetrable screen of leaves during the summer months. While its unique trunk texture provides interest throughout the winter.
The name hornbeam references its wood’s unusual strength, referring to the toughness of an animal horn. Though its wood is rarely seen at lumber yards today, it was often used by early American settlers to make heavy duty items like ox yokes, axe handles, and mallets.