ironwood tree until we moved to this place.
Our woods are full of them. Carpinus caroliniana. They're also called blue beech and hornbeam trees. They love deep moist soil along creeks and swamps.
The wood is hard and the trunks of young trees look like muscles. They're sort of hexagonal in places. Very cool. [And hard to photograph, so sorry there's no pic.]
catkins, too. Catkins are what you call those droopy tree flowers.
These look like little lanterns when the sun hits them. If I were crafty, I'd make little lanterns like these to go over twinkle lights. How cool would that be?!
I'm not convinced that these catkins are from the Carpinus caroliniana. Usually those have a thumb that sticks off the top of each petal and they turn brown faster. These leaves are right, but the trunk is more beech like and less muscle-y than true ironwoods.
If anyone can identify, shout out in the comments.