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Carpinus betulus

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Carpinus betulus, commonly known as the European or common hornbeam, is a hornbeam native to Western Asia and central, eastern, and southern Europe, including southern England.<ref>http://www.nhm.ac.uk/fff-pcp/glob.pl?report=pcfllist&group=&sort=&inpos=nr6</ref> It requires a warm climate for good growth, and occurs only at elevations up to Template:Convert. It grows in mixed stands with oak, and in some areas beech, and is also a common tree in scree forests. Hornbeam was also known as 'Yoke Elm'.<ref name="Perthensis">Template:Cite book</ref>


European Hornbeam seed catkins
Old hornbeam coppice stools left uncut for at least 100 years. Coldfall Wood, London

It is a deciduous small to medium-size tree reaching heights of Template:Convert, rarely Template:Convert, and often has a fluted and crooked trunk. The bark is smooth and greenish-grey, even in old trees. The buds, unlike those of the beech, are Template:Convert long at the most, and pressed close to the twig. The leaves are alternate, Template:Convert long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive corrugated texture, and a serrated margin. It is monoecious, and the wind-pollinated male and female catkins appear in early summer after the leaves. The fruit is a small Template:Convert long nut, partially surrounded by a three-pointed leafy involucre Template:Convert long; it matures in autumn.

The wood is heavy and hard, and is used for tools and building constructions. It also burns hot and slowly, making it very suitable for firewood.<ref>http://www.gardeningcentral.org/hornbeam_tree/hornbeam_tree.html Tree Profile for Hornbeam</ref> This was the reason for lopping and hence indirectly the saving of Epping Forest, where the hornbeam was a favoured pollarding tree.

Hornbeam was frequently coppiced and pollarded in the past in England. It is still infrequently managed using these traditional methods, but mainly for non-commercial conservation purposes. As a woodland tree traditionally managed in this way, it is particularly frequent in the ancient woodlands of south Essex, Hertfordshire and north Kent where it typically occupies more than half of most ancient woods and wood pastures.<ref name=Rackham>Template:Cite book</ref>

Template:See also The leaves provide food for some animals, including Lepidoptera such as the case-bearer moth Coleophora anatipennella.

There are a number of notable forests where C. betulus is a dominant tree species, among which are:


In England, trees appear to prefer soils with a pH from 3.6 to 4.6 but tolerate up to 7.6. They are found on soils with moderate clay content and avoid soils with particularly high or low clay content.<ref name=Rackham/> Carpinus betulus likes full sun or partial shade,<ref>https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/3136/i-Carpinus-betulus-i/Details RHS page on common hornbeam</ref> moderate soil fertility and moisture. It has a shallow, wide-spreading root system and is marked by the production of stump sprouts when cut back. Because it stands up well to cutting back and has dense foliage, it has been much used in landscape gardening, mainly as tall hedges and for topiary.

The seeds often do not germinate till the spring of the second year after sowing. The hornbeam is a prolific seeder and is marked by vigorous natural regeneration.

Cultivation & Uses

Carpinus betulus is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree, for planting in gardens and parks throughout north west Europe. Both the species<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and the cultivar C. betulus 'Fastigiata'<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.


There are several cultivars, notably:

  • C. betulus 'Fastigiata' or 'Pyramidalis', a very fastigiate tree when young, which has become a popular urban street tree in the United Kingdom and other countries.
  • C. betulus 'Frans Fontaine',<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> a similar fastigiate tree to 'Fastigiata'




External links