Common hornbeam, or European hornbeam, is Carpinus betulus. This is a handsome versatile deciduous tree quite similar to its American cousin, the Ironwood tree (Blue beech), Carpinus caroliniana. It is a well behaved, long lived and generally pest free shade tree of a small to medium size that typically reaches 40 feet in height. The foliage is dark green and 2 to 5 inches long. It opens in spring, a pale chartreuse, and is famous for the attractive golden light that filters though its branches. The trunk is also handsome and strong, and as the trees ages, it takes on a fluted form.
The cultivar, 'Fastigiata', is seen more than the species. It develops a dense, formal, outline with excellent symmetry. Neither the flowers nor the fall color are remarkable but it offers attractive summer foliage. This makes for a handsome shade tree of a desirably smaller size that is maintenance free and somewhat drought resistant. It works well as a patio specimen, street tree, screen and can even be cut back and made into a hedge.
It thrives across North America, especially in those areas where the summers are not too hot and, naturally, it does well across the UK. Hornbeam is the predominant species in Epping Forest.

Some other popular cultivars are:

'Incisa' which has deeply cut leaves
'Globosa' - A rounded dense tree with no central leader
'Pendula' - a weeping version
'Quercifolia' - Leaves have a lobed shape

Trees with similar beauty would include the American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana; the Japanese loose-flowered hornbeam, Carpinus laxiflora; the Japanese hop-hornbeam; and the American hop-hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana.


Common hornbeam

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