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Carpinus betulus

Previously known as:

  • Carpinus caucasica
  • Carpinus compressus
  • Carpinus nervata
  • Carpinus sepium
  • Carpinus ulmifolia
  • Carpinus vulgaris
Phonetic Spelling
kar-PINE-us BET-yoo-lus
Description

European Hornbeam or Common Hornbeam is a medium-sized ornamental deciduous tree that grows 40 to 60 feet in height and 40 feet wide. It is popular as a shade tree for lawns or as an urban street tree. The tree tolerates hard pruning and may be used as a hedge, screen, or topiary. The dense dark green leaves of summer, bright yellow leaves of fall, and smooth gray bark add beauty to the landscape year-round. The tree is a member of the Betulaceae or Birch Family. This species has many cultivars that vary in habit or form. 

European Hornbeam is found widespread in Europe and western Asia. Reportedly, it has the hardest wood of all the trees in Europe. The wood has been used to make furniture and flooring. In the past, Romans used the wood from this tree to make chariots.

The genus name, Carpinus, is Latin for "hornbeam." The species name, betulus, is Latin and means "birch or birch-like." The common name, European Hornbeam, is derived from "horn," meaning hard, "beam," meaning tree in Old English, and European signifying its place of origin. 

This species prefers moist, well-drained, loamy, or sandy soil in full sun or partial shade. Their habit may be rounded, vase-shaped, or pyramidal. The branches may droop as the tree grows and require pruning. Heavy pruning is tolerated if the tree is to be used as a hedge. Propagation from seeds and stem cuttings has been reported as difficult. Grafting is perhaps the best option. This tree is not widely available commercially. The American Hornbeam is available, but it is a smaller tree. 

The leaves are dark green, ovate, and doubly serrated. The flowers are male and female catkins that appear in April and May before the foliage appears. The male catkins are 1.5 inches long and yellow. The female catkins are 3 inches long and green. It is pollinated by the wind. The fruit is a small hard brown nutlet with 3-lobed bracts and appears from September to October. 

European Hornbeam attracts small birds and mammals. The tree serves as a source of food, shelter, nesting, and roosting. 

This specimen is attractive and well-suited as an ornamental shade tree or hedge. European Hornbeam would be a welcomed addition to any home lawn, recreational area, or urban area.

 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems are known. Fungi may cause Leaf spots. Gray Squirrels may strip bark from the tree.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Asplenifolia'
    Deeply lobed leaves
  • 'Columnaris'
    Narrow, dense growth habit
  • 'Columnar Nana'
    Dwarf pyramidal tree
  • 'Fastigiata'
    Dense, upright, and used as a screen due to its wind resistance
  • 'Fran's Fontaine'
    Narrow habit for smaller landscapes
  • "Globosa'
    Rounded growth habit
  • "Horizontalis'
    Flat topped growth habit
  • "Incisa'
    Small deeply toothed leaves
  • 'Pendula'
    Weeping habit
  • 'Purpurea'
    Purplish leaves
  • 'Pyramidalis'
    Upright growth habit
  • 'Vienna Weeping'
    Rare weeping tree shape
'Asplenifolia', 'Columnaris', 'Columnar Nana', 'Fastigiata', 'Fran's Fontaine', "Globosa', "Horizontalis', "Incisa', 'Pendula', 'Purpurea', 'Pyramidalis', 'Vienna Weeping'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#fall interest#street tree#playground#food source wildlife#children's garden#catkins#fantz#green leaves#food source fall#fall color yellow#nutlet
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Asplenifolia'
    Deeply lobed leaves
  • 'Columnaris'
    Narrow, dense growth habit
  • 'Columnar Nana'
    Dwarf pyramidal tree
  • 'Fastigiata'
    Dense, upright, and used as a screen due to its wind resistance
  • 'Fran's Fontaine'
    Narrow habit for smaller landscapes
  • "Globosa'
    Rounded growth habit
  • "Horizontalis'
    Flat topped growth habit
  • "Incisa'
    Small deeply toothed leaves
  • 'Pendula'
    Weeping habit
  • 'Purpurea'
    Purplish leaves
  • 'Pyramidalis'
    Upright growth habit
  • 'Vienna Weeping'
    Rare weeping tree shape
'Asplenifolia', 'Columnaris', 'Columnar Nana', 'Fastigiata', 'Fran's Fontaine', "Globosa', "Horizontalis', "Incisa', 'Pendula', 'Purpurea', 'Pyramidalis', 'Vienna Weeping'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#fall interest#street tree#playground#food source wildlife#children's garden#catkins#fantz#green leaves#food source fall#fall color yellow#nutlet
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Carpinus
    Species:
    betulus
    Family:
    Betulaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The wood of the European Hornbeam is very hard. The Romans used the wood from the tree to make chariots. It also served to make oxen yokes, chopping blocks, piano hammers, wood screws, coach wheels, and cogs for windmills and watermills. The wood also served as good firewood.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe to Iran
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, North Caucasus, Poland, Romania, South European Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia; Introduced: Norway and NY
    Wildlife Value:
    The tree provides shelter, roosting, nesting, and foraging site for small birds and small mammals. Finches, titmouse, and small mammals eat the fruits in the fall. The caterpillars of many moth species feed on the leaves.
    Play Value:
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an oval, dry, hard, brown nutlet, measuring less than 0.5 inches in diameter. The nutlet is on a serrated and folded bract. The bracts are clustered on a 3-inch stalk. The fruit is displayed in the fall, from September to October. They are not showy, but they attract small birds and mammals.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Male and female catkins appear in the spring before the foliage. The male catkins are 1.5 inches long and yellow, and the female catkins are 3 inches long and green. They are not showy or conspicuous.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green, simple, alternate, ovate, and have doubly serrated margins. The veins give the leaf a quilted appearance. They measure 2-4 inches in length. In the fall, the leaf color transitions to a bright yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth, grayish-brown when the tree is young. It splits into shallow furrows. The trunk is distinctly fluted.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The twigs are thin and reddish-brown with lighter vertical lenticels. The buds are green and turn light brown in color. They measure 1/4 inch long and curl slightly around the twig.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought