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Indigenous Peoples' Perspective Project


Scientific Name: Carpinus caroliniana

Common Name: Ironwood, American hornbeam, blue-beech, musclewood

Plant Family: Betulaceae (Birch family)

Etymology: Carpinus derives from “carpentum” a Roman horse-drawn vehicle with hard-wood wheels. Caroliniana refers to its native region in central North America.

Parts Used: leaves, nutlets, wood

Season: year-round

Indigenous Uses

The astringent leaves and inner bark had medicinal uses, including as an ingredient in tea for flux, a drink for navel yellowness, and a drink for cloudy urine. As a craft product, the wood was used for the main supporting posts for the ridgepole of the wigwam or tent.

Edible Parts

Survival instructors describe using the cooked nutlets for food, though it’s unclear to what extent it was traditionally used by humans since documentation is sparse.

This project was made possible by a grant from Maryland Humanities, with funding received from the Maryland Historical Trust in the Maryland Department of Planning. Maryland Humanities’ Grants Program is also supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and private funders. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily represent those of Maryland Humanities, Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland Department of Planning, or National Endowment for the Humanities.