Virtual Tour


Bend your arm at the elbow, make a fist, and then make a muscle. Go ahead and squeeze the muscle a little with your other hand. Does it feel strong? If you tried to squeeze the bark of this tree, you might hurt your hand. It's really hard (you can try tapping it gently, too—gently not because you'll hurt it, but because you might hurt your knuckles!). Because it has bulges like muscles and it's hard, people started calling this tree the "musclewood tree." The arboretum's musclewood tree is young. Here are some pictures of an older musclewood tree at a county park in Virginia:

Musclewood tree 1           Musclewood tree 2            Musclewood tree 3
Musclewood tree at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, Virginia (
If you visit Green Spring, look for the tree at the end of the path leading from the Native Plant Trail to the first pond.

Bonus fact:
Most plants have at least two names. One is called a scientific name and it's always written in Latin. The scientific name for musclewood is Carpinus caroliniana [pronounced car-pine-us care-o-lynn-ee-ain-ah]. But most people don't know the scientific names for plants, so they call them by their "common name." Common names often come from some special feature of the plant. In this case, people thought the bark looked like a muscle. Another common name for this tree is "Ironwood." Some plants have lots of different common names, which can get confusing. This is why scientists agree to have only one scientific name.

How to find the musclewood tree at the Arboretum:
Enter Fern Valley near the collection sign. Follow the path as it bends right along the stream. Take the first stone bridge that crosses the stream. Turn right on the path and follow it until you reach the pond. Musclewood is the small tree on your left almost to the end of the pond. It has a label with its name on it hanging on one of its limbs.

Scientific name for musclewood: Carpinus caroliniana

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Last Updated   July 10, 2009 9:33 AM