A small floodplain or understory tree with long irregular crooked branches and smooth grey ribbed bark. Alternate names each refer to one of its wonderful attributes. Musclewood refers to the sinewy ribbing of the trunk, which resembles a flexed forearm. Smooth grey bluish-tinted bark resembles beech. Ironwood because of its incredible toughness, suitable for tool handles and oxen yokes. Water beech because it can thrive in a flood plain.
Bronze-red tomentose foliage in spring turns a striking blue-green color with the season. Bright red, scarlet and orange fall color all at the same time.
Prefers deep rich moist slightly acid soil but will handle dry spots. Remarkably adaptable but does not like urban conditions, although the one growing next to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland is doing well. Full sun to full shade. Native from Canada to Central America. Z2. Maine Grown. (1-3' bare-root trees)
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