Botanical Source.—This is a small tree from 25 to 30 feet in height, remarkable for its fine, narrow, longitudinally divided, and brownish bark. The wood is white, hard, and strong. The leaves are oblong, ovate, subcordate, acuminate, unequally serrate, and somewhat downy; the buds acute. The sterile flowers are in cylindrical aments, scales orbicular-ovate, acuminate, ciliate, 1-flowered filaments somewhat united irregularly; anthers bearded at the summit. The fertile flowers are in pairs, numerous, in a short, oblong, pendulous, loosely imbricated, linear, terminal ament, with small, deciduous bracts; scales none, but each flower is inclosed in a membranous sac-like involucre, bristly hairy at the base, and which enlarges, forming a bladdery closed bag in fruit, these being imbricated to form a sort of strobile appearing like that of the hop. The ovary is 2-celled, 2-ovuled, crowned with entire and bearded border of the perianth, forming a small and seed-like, smooth nut. Styles 2, united at the base; nut lance-oblong, somewhat compressed, and included in the enlarged, imbricated, bladder-like sac (G.—W.).
History.—This is a tree common to the United States, growing in rich woods, and flowering in April and May. The flowers are green, and appear with the leaves, and the large and handsome oval-oblong strobiles are matured in August. The inner wood and bark are the parts used; they are bitter and yield their virtues to water. Prof. Trimble found it to contain 6.5 per cent of tannin referred to dried substance (Bull. of Pharm., 1895, p. 412).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Iron-wood is antiperiodic, tonic, and alterative. It has been used with efficacy in intermittent fevers, neuralgic affections, dyspepsia, scrofula, and all diseases where an antiperiodic tonic is indicated. Dose of the decoction, 1 or 2 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day; of the fluid extract, 1 fluid drachm.
Related Species.—Carpinus americana, Michaux. This is another tree known as Ironwood and Hornbeam, closely resembling the above. It grows from 10 to 20 feet high, has a smooth gray bark, with an irregularly ridged trunk, and very fine-grained, compact, white wood. The scales of the fertile aments are 3-parted, the middle segment being much the largest, oblique, with a lateral tooth, persistent, and becoming foliaceous. The nut small, ovoid, bony, ribbed, with a simple, one-sided, enlarged, and open leaf-like involucre. This tree is not bitter, and must not be confounded with the Ostrya (G.—W.).
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.