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Carpinus japonica is often confused with:
Carpinus betulus Carpinus betulus 'Pendula' - small tree planting
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Carpinus betulus Carpinus betulus 'Pendula' - small tree planting
Ostrya virginiana Ostrya virginiana
Salix caroliniana Salix caroliniana

Carpinus japonica

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Carpinus carpinoides
  • Carpinus carpinus
  • Carpinus distegocarpus
  • Distegocarpus carpinoides
  • Distegocarpus carpinus
Phonetic Spelling
kar-PINE-us juh-PON-ih-kuh
Description

Japanese Hornbeam is a small to medium-sized, slow-growing, deciduous, understory tree. The tree grows up to 20-30 feet tall in cultivation and up to 50 feet tall in its native habitat. It is stately and sturdy with attractive foliage and ornamental catkins. The numerous pairs of deep veins on each leaf make the foliage distinctive. This tree serves well as an understory tree because of its tolerance to heavy shade. The Japanese Hornbeam is a member of the Betulaceae or Birch family.

The tree is native to central and southern Japan and was introduced in 1895.

The genus name, Carpinus, is Latin for "hornbeam." The species name, japonica, references its place of origin. The common name, Hornbeam, is derived from "horn," meaning hard, and "beam", meaning tree in Old English.

Japanese Hornbeam is a low-maintenance tree and prefers partial shade to full shade. It will tolerate full sun. It is also tolerant of a wide range of soil types. This plant is propagated by seeds, softwood cuttings, or grafting.

The bark is grayish-brown and has shallow furrows. The leaves are dark green, simple, and ovate to oblong in shape, with rounded or slightly cordate bases. They have prominent veining that gives the leaf a quilted appearance. The margins are doubly toothed. The flowers are male and female yellowish-green colored catkins.  The male catkin has narrowly ovate pointed scales. The female catkin is slender with overlapping bracts that are toothed and ovate. Flowering occurs in spring. The female catkin produces a small roundish brown nutlet from late summer to fall. 

Japanese Hornbeam has a graceful form and attractive foliage. This plant would add interest to a lawn or as a low-maintenance understory tree. 

Insects Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

This tree has no serious pests or disease issues. Caterpillars and aphids may be seen. Powdery mildew, leaf spots, cankers, and twig blight can occur.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#interesting bark#understory tree#catkins#green leaves#nutlet#tree
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#interesting bark#understory tree#catkins#green leaves#nutlet#tree
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Carpinus
    Species:
    japonica
    Family:
    Betulaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and Southern Japan
    Distribution:
    Japan
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    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
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 4a, 5b, 5a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a small ribbed nutlet that is attached to a serrated and folded bract. The bracts are on a sausage-shaped, 2 to 3 inch long hanging cluster. The fruits ripen in early fall and are dispersed during the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are male and female yellowish-green catkins that become pale brown as it matures. The male catkin is 1 to 2 inches long with an ovate and pointed 1/4 inch scales. The female catkin is 2 to 2.5 inches long with overlapping bracts. The bracts are toothed, ovate, and measure 5/8 to 7/8 inches long. They bloom in mid to late spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Waxy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The dark green leaves measure 2 to 4.5 inches long and 3/4 inch to 1 3/4 inches wide. They are ovate to oblong with a cordate or sometimes, a rounded base. The margins are doubly-toothed. The upper surface of the leaf has 20 to 24 prominent veins that give the leaf a quilted appearance. The leaf is downy along the mid-rib. The undersides of the leaf are a paler green color and downy along the veins and mid-rib.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    On young trees, the bark is grayish-brown, thin, and smooth. Later, the bark splits into shallow furrows. The tree has a fluted trunk.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The twigs are slender, smooth, and reddish-brown. Young shots have fine hairs. The twigs have vertical lenticels. The buds are initially green and then turn light brown in color and are cone-shaped.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Understory Tree
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade