Carpinus caroliniana

American Hornbeam, Ironwood




  • native to Canada down through Texas across to Florida
  • hardy to zone 3

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous large shrub or small tree
  • multistemmed
  • wide spreading, flat-topped crown
  • 20' to 30' tall and as wide or wider
  • slow growth rate
  • medium texture

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • simple, deciduous leaves
  • 2.5" long and 5" wide
  • oblong leaf shape
  • doubly-serrated leaf margin
  • dark green leaf color, glabrous

Autumn Foliage

  • yellow, orange, and red fall color
  • variable


  • monoecious with male and female flowers on the same plant
  • female flowers are 4" long and are attached to a 3-winged bract
  • male flowers are not ornamentally important
  • blooms in April


  • a nutlet subtended by a 3-winged, leaf-like bract
  • 1" long
  • numerous nutlets are held together in pendulous chain-like clusters
  • color changes from green to brown in September thru October


  • smooth, gray bark
  • fluted base
  • vertical ridges
  • slender, dark brown, hairy stems


  • transplants from containers
  • prefers, deep fertile, moist, acidic soil
  • full sun to shade
  • prune tolerant

Landscape Use

  • shade tree
  • lawn tree
  • park tree
  • naturalized area
  • hedge
  • screen


  • leaf diseases
  • cankers
  • doesn't transplant well

ID Features

  • small, imbricate buds, 0.25" long
  • buds are pointed and hairy
  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • clusters of nutlets with 3-winged bracts
  • fluted, muscle-like bark
  • dense, clean summer foliage


  • by seed, but requires stratification
  • cuttings can be rooted, but they are difficult


  • few and hard to find

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

The digital materials (images and text) available from the UConn Plant Database are protected by copyright. Public use via the Internet for non-profit and educational purposes is permitted. Use of the materials for profit is prohibited.

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