Fire King™ Musclewood

Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Select A’ PP29969

Description & Overview

A Johnson’s Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, Fire King™ Musclewood lives up to its name with its fast growth, superior hardiness, and excellent structure. Selected by Mike Yanny in 2003, this cultivar is upright in youth becoming rounded with age. An excellent choice for restricted spaces where sunlight is limiting!

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: Regional Ecotype Nativar
Mature Height: 20 feet
Mature Spread: 20 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Small stature tree, rounded canopy
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.

Downloadable Content

fire king musclewood carpinus caroliniana jn select a info flyer

Suggested Uses:

Fire King™ Musclewood is a versatile choice for many landscape applications. It tolerates full sun to full shade, is adaptable to many soil textures, and provides interest throughout the season. You will also note its vigorous growth rate, making it useful as a screen, specimen, shrub border, or understory tree.

Salable #10 Container Fire King™ Musclewood next to mature specimen.

Wildlife Value:

The seeds and catkins 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:

All Musclewoods require a healthy mulch ring to protect their roots from quick freezes, and Fire King™ Musclewood is no exception.

The excellent branching habit of Fire King™ Musclewood requires minimal pruning for shape and plant health. As with all trees, crossing branches should be removed as noticed.

The thin bark is susceptible to mechanical damage, so be sure to protect the trunk in fall with a tree guard to prevent buck rub or rodent girdling. A healthy mulch ring will also prevent damage from lawn implements.

Fire King™ Musclewood in trial blocks at Johnson's Nursery since 2003.


Fire King™ Musclewood has no major insect or disease issues. Occasionally, stressed trees may develop fungal diseases, but this is best avoided by maintaining tree vigor.

Leaf Lore:

Fire King™ Musclewood was selected by Mike Yanny at Johnson’s Nursery in 2003. During the severe, snowless winter with deep frost penetration, a crop of 563 musclewood seedlings were heavily damaged, with the majority of them being grubbed. Only 12 seedlings escaped the harsh winter unscathed, and the single best seedling would go on to become the Fire King™. This tree is noted for its superior hardiness, fast growth, and excellent branching habit. As with all of our musclewoods, this cultivar possesses our signature orange to red fall color with best results in full sun. It proves useful as a small stature yet moderately fast growing tree in restricted spaces. We installed a small 4 foot plant at our Menomonee Falls location in the summer of 2017, and we’re excited to see it grow!

Companion Plants:

Fire King™ Musclewood should be paired with plants that match its site and use. As a shrub border with wetter soils, consider using Irish Setter™ Dogwood or Ping Pong™ Buttonbush. As a specimen plant, use low perennials like Palace Purple Coralbells or Prairie Dropseed to show off the tree’s bark.

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