Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus

Tree of the Week

10th September 2019 | Info

Common name: Hornbeam

Scientific name: Carpinus betulus

Introduction: Hornbeam is a deciduous tree, often confused with the common beech (Fagus sylvatica). It is native to the UK, namely, the South. Usually found in Woodlands, the Hornbeam tree can reach heights of 30m and have a lifespan of 300+ years.


Leaves: The Hornbeam’s leaves are what often gets them confused with beech trees. The leaves are an oval shape with double-jagged edges and pointed tips. They have a pleated appearance and are smaller and more deeply lined than those of a beech tree.

Buds: Despite being similar to those of a Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), the buds of a Hornbeam are shorter and have a curved tip whilst being tightly pressed to the brown-grey hairy twigs of the tree.

Bark: Pale grey with vertical markings. Over time the tree’s short and twisted trunk may develop ridges. 

Form: Small-Medium sized trees and can reach heights of up to 30m.



Hornbeams are monoecious meaning they have both male and female catkins. Female catkins get pollinated by the wind and develop into samaras (papery, green-winged fruits). In the autumn and winter months, these samaras turn into thin papery seeds that hang in clusters.

Growth Habits:

Hornbeams have a relatively slow growth rate with trees becoming more rounded as they mature.

Interesting Facts:

The name ‘Hornbeam’ refers to the tree’s hard timber. ‘Horn’ means ‘hard’ and ‘beam’ stands for ‘tree’ in old English. It was also once believed that consumption of a tonic derived from hornbeam would relieve tiredness.

Ecological importance:

Hornbeam hedges are a great asset to wildlife as they keep their leaves all-year-round. Birds and small mammals often seek shelter and nesting here as well as using them to forage. Some moth caterpillars also use the hornbeam as a food source.

Properties of Hornbeam Wood and its Importance:

The hornbeam’s wood is known for being a durable and hard wood, and for burning well. Its wood is often used in furniture and flooring because of this quality. Traditionally, the wood was also used for cogs in windmills and watermills alongside for ox-yokes.

Associated Pests and Diseases:

The Hornbeam can fall subject to fungal diseases, more specifically, Phytophthora spp. Grey squirrels can also cause bark-stripping damage.

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