Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood

Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Globe’

Description & Overview

A Johnson’s Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood is a compact, globe-formed tree with excellent orange-red fall color. The slow-growing rounded canopy stays full whether in sun or shade. As it is adaptable to many site and light conditions, Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood is very useful as a specimen plant.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: Regional Ecotype Nativar
Mature Height: 15 feet
Mature Spread: 15 feet
Growth Rate: Very Slow
Growth Form: Compact, Globe-shaped
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Full Shade
Site Requirements: Adaptable to many soils, with best performance on rich wet-mesic sites. Tolerant of mildly alkaline soils.
Flower: Catkins, monoecious
Bloom Period: April-May
Foliage: Dark Green, Small Leaves
Fall Color: Orange to Red
Fruit Notes: Nutlet, turning red-orange to brown at maturity. Heavy seed crops every 3-5 years.

Suggested Uses:

Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood excels as a small stature tree in a variety of sites. It is tolerant of many soils and can thrive in both full sun and full shade. Where space is restricted, or site conditions are difficult, use Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood as a specimen, to create an allée, for screening, or as a street tree.

Wildlife Value:

The seeds and catkins of Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood provide food to many songbirds, grouse, and turkey. Its canopy and dense branching provide nesting habitat to many bird species. As a selection of Musclewood, this tree serves as a larval host to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Striped Hairstreak, and White Admiral butterflies.

Maintenance Tips:

As Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood is a very slow-growing form of Musclewood, it does not require frequent or heavy pruning. Rubbing or crossing branches should be removed if noticed. In winter, monitor for rodent damage around the trunk. Use a spiral vinyl protector or repellent to avoid girdling damage.

Like its parent, Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood has thin bark that is prone to mechanical damage. A mulch ring around the base will avoid mower damage, and be cautious when using garden tools around the trunk so as not to damage the thin bark.


Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood has no major insect or disease problems. Stressed trees may be susceptible to Anthracnose, Botryosphaeria canker, and Nectria canker, but these diseases rarely rear their heads unless the tree is already stressed. The best prevention method is to ensure proper watering and nutrition with a healthy mulch ring.

Leaf Lore:

The Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood was selected by Mike Yanny from a crop of plants grown from seed collected in the wild in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. As a slow-growing deciduous tree, Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood makes an excellent specimen in restricted spaces. Low maintenance requirements make this tree great for those wanting a low-maintenance tree with year-round interest.

Companion Plants:

For planting beneath Ball o’ Fire™ Musclewood, consider using Pink-a-licious™ Fritsch Spirea, Marcus™ Salvia, or Prairie Dropseed.

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johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32