Firespire® Musclewood

Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Upright’

Description & Overview

A Johnson’s Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, Firespire® Musclewood is an upright form of Musclewood with outstanding orange-red fall color. It is quite similar in scale and form to Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’. Firespire® Musclewood is an excellent choice for a screening plant due to its slow growth rate, slender form, and adaptability to sun and shade.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: Regional Ecotype Nativar
Mature Height: 20 feet
Mature Spread: 8-10 feet
Growth Rate: Very Slow
Growth Form: Narrow, Upright, Oval
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

firespire musclewood carpinus caroliniana jn upright info flyer

Suggested Uses:

With its slow growth rate and dense canopy, Firespire® Musclewood shines as a small-stature screening plant. It thrives in full sun to full shade and has a variety of landscape applications, from specimens to shrub borders. The upright habit is especially useful to frame a building or view.

Wildlife Value:

The seeds and catkins of Firespire® 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 Firespire® 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, Firespire® 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.


Firespire® 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:

Firespire® Musclewood was selected in 1993 by Mike Yanny from production fields at Johnson’s Nursery, Inc. for its narrow, upright form. It is available in both single-stem and shrub-form trees. Shrub form Firespire® Musclewood is an excellent choice for screening as its low, fine branching gives good cover.

This is an extremely slow growing tree and one should not expect it to exceed a height of 20 feet in 30 years. At 10 years old, our original twice-transplanted plant was around 7 feet tall by 3.5 feet wide.

Companion Plants:

Firespire® Musclewood can be paired with Golden Glory Dogwood to make a screen that holds year-round interest. On its own, one may use Overdam Feather Reed Grass to provide similar upright accents in the landscape.

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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