Carpinus betulus - European Hornbeam
Family: Corylaceae

Hear the scientific name

Carpinus betulus is a columnar to teardrop-shaped tree. European Hornbeam is noted for fine and dense texture, ornamental winter bark and buds, dense summer foliage, pendulous spring catkins, and unusual autumn fruits.

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  form2 form Form

-medium-sized deciduous tree; the rarely available species form maturing at 40' tall x 30' wide, with the common cultivars more compact; species form an upright oval growth habit in youth, quickly becoming a spreading oval (low-branched teardrop shape) with maturity

-medium growth rate

foliage Foliage

-alternate, ovate to oblong, doubly serrated, with impressed veins; opaque to dull green; autumn color ranging from a poor yellowish-green to golden-yellow

-leaves similar to those of European Beech, but the latter leaves are shiny, with margins that are entire or undulate


-pendulous catkins, both staminate and pistillate, produced in Apr., with the 3" long pistillate catkins emerging from 3-lobed bracts


-light brown nutlets, maturing in Oct., with the enveloping 3-lobed bract appearing as an umbrella over them; bracts changing from light green to yellow in Sept. and clustered on the twigs


-olive-brown and lenticeled, with ornamental winter buds that are long and partially curving around the twigs

-the twigs are similar to those of the European Beech, but the latter has winter buds that extend straight out of the stem at a 45 degree angle


-smooth and steel gray, but having a muscled character to its appearance

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-full sun to partial sun; prefers a well-drained soil but is adaptable to various soils and soil pHs; if transplanted in autumn, use amended soil, fertilize, mulch liberally, and avoid winter salt spray

-cultivars are usually propagated by rooted cuttings or cuttings grafted onto seedling understock;

-co-dominant central branch decline and dieback an occasional problem on mature specimens of 'Fastigiata';

-stem borers can also attack mature trees

-commonly available in B&B


-zones 4 to 7


-native to Europe and Asia Minor

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-perfect formal symmetry; often limbs and foliages to the ground if unpruned; fine-textured branches and twigs; ascending habit; smooth gray bark; ornamental winter buds, spring catkins, and autumn fruit bracts; dense year-round screen (rare for a deciduous tree)


-'Fastigiata' gets wide with age and may exhibit central canopy decline and dieback


-specimen or focal point tree of great symmetrical and architectural value; can also be an effective year-round screen or tall, wide hedge when used in rows


-fine texture in foliage and when bare; thick density in foliage and when bare, with many ascending twigs and branches forming a thick canopy even in winter

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Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-trees or large shrubs that branch to the ground with a dense character (e.g., Fagus sylvatica); large non-thorny screens or informal hedges (e.g. Rhamnus frangula 'Columnaris'); trees with ornamental and unusual fruits; trees or large shrubs with symmetrical, fine-textured ascending winter branching

-other possibilities: Pyrus calleryana, Tilia cordata


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