Carpinus betulus

European Hornbeam, Common Hornbeam




  • native to Europe and Asia Minor
  • zone 5

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous, medium sized tree
  • 40' to 60' tall with roughly an equal width
  • somewhat pyramidal or oval when young
  • mature plants are broad and rounded
  • foliage is typically dense

Summer Foliage

  • alternate, deciduous leaves
  • leaves are 2.5" to 5" long and 1" to 2" wide
  • oblong-ovate leaves with rounded base and acute tip
  • margins doubly serrate
  • leaves are heavily textured with very impressed veins
  • leaf color is dark green
  • high quality summer foliage

Autumn Foliage

  • fall color is yellow to yellow-green
  • not impressive
  • leaves held late into the fall


  • monoecious with male and female flowers on the same plant
  • male flowers are 1.5" long catkins
  • female flowers are 1.5" to 3"
  • flowers are not considered showy
  • blooms in April


  • a ribbed nutlet subtended by a 1" to 1.5" papery, leaf-like bract
  • numerous nutlets are held together in pendulous chain-like clusters
  • color changes from green to brown in September thru October


  • interesting, smooth fluted bark
  • showy steel-gray color
  • considered to be ornamental


  • very soil adaptable as long as the soil is well-drained
  • full sun is best
  • can tolerate urban conditions and pollution
  • can be pruned or hedged if so desired
  • long-lived tree
  • difficult to transplant as large tree

Landscape Use

  • shade tree
  • street tree (upright form)
  • for screening
  • specimen
  • can be pleached or pruned into a large hedge
  • works well in large planter boxes, tree lawns and in urban plaza plantings, although upright selection may be most suitable


  • generally free of problems
  • can be attacked by Japanese Beetle
  • canker and stem die-back occur occasionally
  • narrow branch angles on upright forms may be prone to splitting in ice storms

ID Features

  • buds hook or curve back around the stem
  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • highly impressed veins and textured leaves
  • clusters of nutlets with bracts
  • fluted, muscle-like gray bark
  • dense, clean summer foliage


  • by seed, but requires stratification
  • cuttings can be rooted, but they are difficult
  • cultivars are often grafted onto seedlings


'Asplenifolia' and 'Incisa' - Both have deeply cut leaves so the teeth are more like lobes.

'Fastigiata' - A very popular cultivar that is much more common than the species in commerce. Not really a columnar form, but rather develops a dense, formal, pyramidal outline with unrivaled symmetry. Reaches 40' to 50' tall and 20' to 30' wide at the bottom third of the plant. Lacks a true central leader and has numerous, fine upright branches. In the trade, variability exists in 'Fastigiata' as far as its shape, so it is probable that more then one clone is being called 'Fastigiata'.

'Globosa' - A rounded dense tree with no central leader. Slow growing, only reaching 15' to 20' tall.

'Pendula' - Various weeping clones are occasionally seen, but they differ widely in their ultimate size and habit.

'Quercifolia' - Leaves somewhat oak-like in shape (lobed).

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.