Should this ironwood/musclewood be pruned?

lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)May 13, 2011

I have an ironwood/musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana)that I am trying to groom to be a small shade tree. I've seen these trees all over, but I don't know a whole lot about their growth. The tree is growing like gangbusters and I'd really like to tame it down a bit, plus make it look better when eventually the trunk grows up. It has two large branches that are seriously crossing sections of the trunk, to the point where the bark is rubbing. I'm wondering if I should prune these? I want it to have a strong trunk, and I'm wondering if I don't prune, will the branches just grow together? Really the tree is getting out of hand, and it would look better pruned, so unless it just would look prettier unpruned, I think I would like to prune unless there is some compelling reason not to. I've attached photos of the whole tree and the sections to be pruned. The second shot is blurry, but I think you can get the gist of the problem.

Anyone have any experience with this tree to share? Thanks!

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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Remove the crossing-rubbing limb. You can't "tame it" by pruning, if you mean 'slow it down'.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:15AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

No, I meant tame its shape. It's growing in a small spot in an urban setting. That will eventually slow it down.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:28PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Ironwood is typically the common name for Ostrya virginiana, glad you used Carpinus caroliniana to clarify, although the bark is a dead give away.

Carpinus caroliniana does grow fast when young but then slows slows way down. Its actually considered a slow growing tree. Although they tend to have a more globular shape they can have an irregular shape and have offshoots growing outside the you may not be able to tame the shape.

From what I can tell it looks like you have a nice tree there.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:42PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

The love of my life whom I met last year and is now more or less living with me is getting very impatient with this tree! It spills way over the path and brushes his face whenever he comes and goes into the house. I'm a tree hugger so I don't care. I say we'll just have to wait, as the tree grows up the bottom branches will drape over the path but above face height. I thought a compromise might be to prune out the crossing branches. A few less leaves to spit out. It would also make the shade under the tree a bit more dappled.

Yes, I really love my American hornbeam, it has performed well beyond my expectations. It is gorgeous orange in the fall too! I am familiar with some from an arboretum where I once worked, they had an umbrella shape, and so have the others I have seen in the wild. But they were all growing in shade. This one is in full sun most of the time and is oval shaped. I'm hoping it eventually widens out. Being and understory tree, I had no idea how it would fare with full sun in the afternoons, but so far it seems more or less OK. I water it a lot during dry spells though.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:37PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Keep it, prune it up...that trunk will become even more muscular! Its good you have one that has good fall color...some don't color up well.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 5:07PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I'm just wondering if this crossing branches is typical of musclewood and maybe the branches grow together creating more of a muscle-y look? I know nothing about the growth habits of this tree. I got it at a native plant nursery. Oh, and here's a photo of the tree in the fall. Probably doesn't turn bright colors in most of its locations due to it usually not getting sun as an understory tree. I dunno, just my theory. Boy, I'm mourning the loss of that adorable dwarf hemlock underneath it. Snowmageddon did it in, :(

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 11:19AM
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acer(6b western NC)

I love carpinus, partly because they look so much like cute little manageable beech trees. Your tree with that flame orange foliage is spectacular! You should propagate it - I'd sure stand in line for one. Does the nursery where you bought it do mail order?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 11:27PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Definitely A+ fall color...I saw close to 100s of these in full sun and they don't get that vibrant (at least most of them)!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 10:48PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I KNOW, the red/orange color was totally unexpected! I keep thinking some fall it is going to all end and I'll get boring yellow.

Yes, Acer, that's exactly why I chose the tree, I was trying to recreate in minature some of my favorite sights from my native north country, and the Musclewood is a stand in for the beech of the beech/maple forest. Sadly, the hemlocks stand-in died and I don't trust the spot enough to plant another one, considering the price of those dwarf hemlocks. On the other side of the yard, I have a spectacular Japanes maple, Fireglow, standing in for the maple clan. That one surprised me too, at how fast it grew.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 6:34AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I just wanted to add that I got the tree at "Edge of the Woods Nursery, " a native plant nursery in Orefield, PA. I have no financial affiliation with them but I can't reccomend them highly enough. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and they have a resource library on-site so they can look up what they don't know. The have events there occasionally too, so definately worth a trip if you live anywhere near there.

However, they DO NOT do mail order. Ya gotta go there. I'm lucky they are close.

Here is a link that might be useful: Edge of the Woods

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 10:31AM
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