Firespire musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Upright’) was selected by Michael Yanny at Johnson’s Nursery from an upper Midwest provenance seedling crop. The tree was selected for its narrow, upright form. Most C. caroliniana plants in the wild have a yellowish fall color. Only a very small percentage of wild plants provide shades of red. Firespire develops a consistent, bright, orange-red coloring during autumn.

It is quite similar in size, scale and form to Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory,’ having a dense canopy with a free branching habit. After ten years the original After 10 years the original plant, which was transplanted twice, was 7 feet tall and 3½ feet wide. At 25 years old, after transplanting for a third time, the original plant is 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide.

C. caroliniana is commonly known as American hornbeam. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the smooth, gray trunk and larger branches of a mature tree exhibit a distinctive muscle-like fluting that produced a second common name of musclewood. They also state that this tree has extremely hard wood and was once used by early Americans to make bowls, tool handles and ox yokes. The limited amount of wood per tree has prohibited its use commercially.

Why grow Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Upright?’

  • Selected native
  • Outstanding orange-red fall color
  • Smaller stature and shape