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Carpinus betulus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Corylaceae (Hazel)
Also in this family:
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
24 metres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, parks, towns, woodland.

Green, no petals
Green male hanging catkins. Female leafy 3-lobed bracts concealing the nut-like fruit.
The winged fruits called 'samara' contain the nuts. These are papery in appearance and hang down, persisting throughout the winter.
A deciduous tree. Oval, pointed leaves, toothed margins, up to 10cm long. The leaves turn yellow to orange in autumn before they are lost. The leaves look similar to Beech leaves but side-by-side you will notice a clear difference in that they are more crinkly. Hornbeam leaves also have double-serrated edges, whereas Beech leaves have no serrations and slightly wavy edges.
Other Names:
Charmille, Common Hornbeam, European Hornbeam, Horn Beech, Horse Beech, Hurst Beech, White Beech, Yoke Elm.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Carpinus betulus, also known as European Hornbeam or Common Hornbeam, is a deciduous tree species of the Betulaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, but it is now also found in other parts of the world. The tree can reach up to 24 meters tall and has a dense, pyramidal canopy. It has a smooth, gray bark and its leaves are simple and oval-shaped, dark green in color. The tree produces small, yellow-green catkins in spring, which are followed by small, nut-like fruits in the fall.

Carpinus betulus is a popular ornamental tree, often planted in parks and gardens. It is also used in hedges and topiary. The tree is valued for its tolerance to pruning, making it a great choice for shaping into different forms. It also has a tolerance to urban pollution and can grow in different soil types. The wood of the tree is hard and heavy, it is used for furniture, tool handles, and flooring.


Hornbeam, also known as Carpinus betulus, is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe, western Asia, and parts of northern Africa. It is a member of the birch family, Betulaceae, and is closely related to the hazel and oak trees. Hornbeam is a popular ornamental tree that is prized for its attractive foliage, dense canopy, and hard, durable wood.

Physical Characteristics of Hornbeam

Hornbeam is a medium-sized tree that can reach heights of up to 80 feet (24 meters) tall and can have a spread of up to 50 feet (15 meters) wide. It has a narrow, conical shape when young, and as it ages, it develops a broad, rounded crown. The bark of the tree is gray and smooth, and it becomes more deeply furrowed and ridged as the tree matures.

The leaves of hornbeam are dark green, oval-shaped, and have a serrated edge. They are typically 2 to 5 inches (5 to 13 cm) long and 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) wide. In the fall, the leaves turn a beautiful yellow-orange color before dropping from the tree.

The flowers of hornbeam are not particularly showy, but they are an important food source for bees and other pollinators. The male flowers are yellowish-green catkins that appear in the spring before the leaves emerge, while the female flowers are small, inconspicuous clusters that appear at the base of the new growth.

After the flowers have been pollinated, the female trees produce small, nut-like fruits that are held in papery, winged capsules. These capsules, known as samaras, are about 0.5 to 1 inch (1.2 to 2.5 cm) long and ripen in the fall.

Cultivation and Uses of Hornbeam

Hornbeam is a hardy tree that can grow in a wide range of soils, from sandy to clay, and in both acidic and alkaline conditions. It prefers a well-drained soil and a sunny to partially shaded position.

Hornbeam is often used as a hedging plant, as it forms a dense, impenetrable barrier when planted closely together. It is also a popular ornamental tree in parks and gardens, where its attractive foliage and striking form can be appreciated.

Hornbeam wood is hard, heavy, and durable, and it has been used for a wide range of applications, including furniture, tool handles, and flooring. It is also a popular wood for carving and turning, and it has been used for centuries to make bowls, spoons, and other household items.

In traditional medicine, hornbeam has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. The leaves and bark of the tree contain tannins, which have astringent properties that can help to tighten and tone the tissues of the body.

In conclusion, hornbeam is a versatile and attractive tree that has a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether used as a hedging plant, an ornamental tree, or a source of durable wood, hornbeam is sure to provide beauty and value for many years to come.

Further information about the Hornbeam

Hornbeam is also known for its hardiness and ability to withstand pruning, which makes it a popular choice for topiary and other ornamental shaping. With proper care, hornbeam can live for many decades and provide a beautiful and functional addition to any landscape.

Aside from its physical characteristics and practical uses, hornbeam also has cultural and symbolic significance. In ancient times, hornbeam was believed to have protective powers against evil spirits and was used to create charms and talismans. In some cultures, hornbeam is also associated with wisdom and strength.

In modern times, hornbeam has been studied for its potential health benefits. Some studies have found that the extract of hornbeam leaves and bark may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could make it useful for supporting overall health and wellness.

Hornbeam is also a valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, squirrels, and insects. The tree provides shelter, food, and nesting sites for these creatures, making it an important part of the ecosystem.

One interesting aspect of hornbeam is its use in traditional European folklore. In some cultures, it was believed that hornbeam was a magical tree with the power to ward off evil spirits and protect against witches and other malevolent forces. Branches of hornbeam were sometimes used to create "witching rods" or "divining rods" that were said to have the ability to detect underground water or buried treasure.

Another fascinating aspect of hornbeam is its role in traditional woodland management practices. In parts of Europe, hornbeam has been used for centuries in a technique known as coppicing, where the tree is cut back to the ground every few years to encourage new growth. This process results in a sustainable supply of wood for fuel, fencing, and other uses, while also creating a diverse and healthy woodland ecosystem.

Hornbeam is also an important tree in herbal medicine, where it has been used for its astringent and tonic properties. The leaves and bark of the tree contain compounds that are believed to have a beneficial effect on the digestive system, respiratory system, and skin. In addition, hornbeam has been used to treat fatigue and to support mental clarity and focus.

Hornbeam is a fascinating and versatile tree with a rich history and a wide range of practical and symbolic uses. Whether appreciated for its beauty, durability, or medicinal properties, hornbeam is a valuable and beloved tree that has captured the imagination of people around the world for centuries.

Hornbeam is also commonly used as a hedge plant, due to its dense foliage and ability to be clipped into a neat shape. When grown as a hedge, hornbeam provides privacy, noise reduction, and a natural barrier to help define the boundaries of a property. It also makes an excellent backdrop for other plants, allowing them to stand out and be more visible.

One unique characteristic of hornbeam is its distinctive bark. The bark of a mature hornbeam tree is smooth and gray, with a fluted texture that resembles the muscles of a flexed bicep. This bark texture is a distinguishing feature that sets hornbeam apart from other trees and adds to its ornamental value.

Hornbeam is also a valuable tree in the forestry industry, where it is used for a variety of purposes, including furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. The wood of hornbeam is dense, hard, and durable, making it an excellent choice for items that require strength and resistance to wear and tear.

Finally, it is worth noting that hornbeam is a tree that is native to Europe and Asia, but has been introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental tree. In some cases, it has become invasive and can outcompete native vegetation. It is important to research local regulations and guidelines before planting hornbeam to ensure that it will not have a negative impact on the local ecosystem.

Facts about Hornbeam

  • Hornbeam is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe and Asia.
  • The tree can grow up to 40 meters tall and has a distinctive fluted bark texture.
  • Hornbeam is a popular choice for hedges, topiary, and ornamental shaping.
  • The tree is hardy and can withstand pruning, making it a durable addition to any landscape.
  • Hornbeam has cultural and symbolic significance, being associated with wisdom, strength, and protection against evil spirits.
  • The tree has potential health benefits, with studies suggesting that it may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Hornbeam is a valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, squirrels, and insects.

Hornbeam is a fascinating and versatile tree with a rich history and a wide range of practical and symbolic uses. It is known for its beauty, durability, and potential health benefits. Hornbeam has cultural and symbolic significance and is a valuable habitat for wildlife. It is important to research local regulations before planting hornbeam to ensure that it does not have a negative impact on the local ecosystem.


Video 1: Hornbeam in flower filmed at Haigh Hall in Lancashire on the 27th April 2023.


Video 2: Hornbeam in fruit filmed at Lower Slaughter in Gloucestershire on the 24th June 2023.


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