Quite scarce in cuiltivation, the Loose-flowered hornbeam, or Carpinus laxiflora (syn. Carpinus fargesii) is a lovely small, deciduous tree, growing to 30 feet, that is well-suited for the woodland edge, yet lends itself equally well to bonsai culture. It has the small oval green serrated leaves typical of Hornbeams (Ironwood). These are a splendid plummy-purple when young and fade to green as they age and finally turn warm orange to brilliant red in autumn. There is also a striped patterning of the bark which adds winter interest and a reddish cast to the stems that is also eye-catching. Even the catkins, or keys, are colorful. The tree's form is a rounded oval with an elegant weeping at the branch tips. This native to East Asia does extremely well in a moist, acidic, well-drained site with partial shade. This is a connoisseur tree that is hard to find but more than worth the effort. It is hardy through most of the United States and Lower Canada, and fully hardy throughout the UK. It will do well in parts of Australia and most of New Zealand.

Trees with similar beauty would include the European hornbeam, Carpinus betulus; the American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana; the American hop-hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana; and the Japanese hop-hornbeam, Ostrya japonica.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

Loose-flowered hornbeam


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