What ironwood looks like

Size and shape

  • Reaches 12 metres high.
  • Trunk up to 25 centimetres in diameter.


  • Oval-shaped (7 to 12 centimetres) with toothed edges and a pointed tip.
  • Dark yellowish-green.
  • Are progressively larger near the tip of a growing shoot.
  • Turn yellow in fall.


  • Greyish-brown.
  • Short, peeling vertical strips.


  • Male flowers grow as catkins in groups of 2 or 3 (15 to 50 millimetres).
  • Female flowers grow in clusters known as racemes.
  • Bloom in April and May.


  • Flattened nut (5 to 8 millimetres) enclosed by an inflated sac (15 millimetres) and covered in stiff hairs.
  • Nuts grow in clusters.

Where ironwood is found

Ironwood trees are found in Southern Ontario, north to Lake Nipissing and Sault Ste. Marie. Populations are also found in the Lake of the Woods region in Northwestern Ontario.

What you need to know to grow ironwood

  • Moisture: grows best in well-drained soil, intolerant of flooding.
  • Soil: tolerant of most soil types.
  • Shade: grows well in all conditions, from deep shade to full sun.
  • Caution: ironwood trees cannot tolerate pollution or road salt and should be planted away from busy roads.

Benefits and uses of ironwood

Wildlife benefits

Ironwood twigs, catkins and seeds are a food source for many birds and mammals, including:

  • white-tailed deer
  • red squirrels
  • ruffed grouse
  • rose-breasted grosbeak

Commercial uses

Ironwood timber is hard and dense, making it useful for:

  • tools
  • handles
  • fence posts
  • mallets

The wood is also a good fuel source but can be tough to split.

Fun facts about ironwood

  • Ironwood trees have the hardest and densest wood of any Canadian species.
  • The fruit resemble clusters of hops, hence its common name hop-hornbeam.