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Carpinus betulus - L.

Common Name Hornbeam, European hornbeam, Common Hornbeam, European Hornbeam
Family Betulaceae
USDA hardiness 5-7
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woodlands and hedgerows on sandy or clay loams[17], preferring heavier soils[13].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Sweden to the Pyrenees east to Iran in W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Carpinus betulus Hornbeam,  European hornbeam, Common Hornbeam, European Hornbeam
Carpinus betulus Hornbeam,  European hornbeam, Common Hornbeam, European Hornbeam


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Oval, Vase.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Carpinus betulus is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen in November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Canopy; not Deep Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

None known


Medicinal Uses

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Bach  Haemostatic  Ophthalmic

The leaves are haemostatic[7]. They are used in external compresses to stop bleeding and heal wounds[7]. A distilled water made from the leaves is an effective eye lotion[7]. The leaves are harvested in August and dried for later use[7]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Tiredness', 'Weariness' and 'Mental and physical exhaustion'[209].


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Other Uses

Dye  Fuel  Hedge  Hedge  Wood

Plants can be grown as a medium to tall hedge, they retain their dead leaves throughout the winter if clipped at least once a year in late summer[11, 29, 186]. They should not be clipped in spring since they will bleed profusely[200]. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark[115]. Wood - heavy, close grained, hard, very tough, very durable, not very durable according to another report. Used for flooring, cogs, tools, piano mechanisms etc[1, 11, 13, 46, 115]. A good fuel[6].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Hedge  Hedge


Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Espalier, Pest tolerant, Hedge, Superior hedge, Specimen, Street tree. Thrives in any good loam, including chalk[1, 11], it does not demand much light[186]. Prefers a deep open loam[1] and does well on damp clays[186]. Succeeds in all but the most acid soils[186]. Dormant trees are very cold tolerant, the young growth is not usually damaged by late spring frosts[186]. The trees cast a deep shade[98, 186]. A very ornamental plant[1]. Trees are shallow-rooted[7]. The hornbeam has 28 species of associated insects[24]. Trees take 10 - 20 years from seed before they produce seed[98] and about 100 years to reach maturity[186]. At one time this tree was commonly pollarded or coppiced for its wood and for fuel[11, 13, 186]. Special Features: Not North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.


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Seed - best sown in an outdoors seedbed as soon as it is ripe[78]. Germination is usually good, though it may take 18 months[80]. If collected whilst still 'green' (after the seed is ripe but before it has dried fully on the plant) and sown immediately it should germinate in the following spring[80]. Grow the plants on for two years in the seedbed and then plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter. The average seed viability is around 65%[98]. Pre-treat stored seed with 4 weeks warm and 12 weeks cold stratification and sow in a cold frame[98]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame until they are at least 15cm tall before planting them into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Carpinus carolinianaAmerican Hornbeam, Blue Beech, Ironwood, American HornbeamTree12.0 3-9 SLMHSNM11 
Carpinus cordata Tree15.0 4-8 SLMHSNM00 
Carpinus laxiflora Tree15.0 4-8  LMHSNM00 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Colin Munro   Thu Jul 31 2008

Where I live we have a number of hornbeams and they seem to be dying off. The leaves turn yellow and the foliage wilts and within a year the tree is dead. Is there a virus or a disease at the moment that is causing the premature death of hornbeams?

Peter Grzelinski   Mon Jul 20 2009

We have a dead tree in our garden, it was fine last year. there are two more in the village with exactly the same problem, completely dried out and bark is split. Have tried to find the cause but to no avail. Can anyone help?

edward   Tue Jan 19 2010

Without having a look myself, it really is impossible to tell. Honey fungus does not necessarily show above ground - is the inside of the bark covered in thin white fungus when you peel it back? It could be a Phytophthora - this is a tough one to identify as it attacts the roots, but cracking bark at the base of the trunk is a common symptom and if it goes all the way around the tree will die swiftly. I'm afraid that you need to get a pro in - even an expert may need to do a soil test or take samples of the tree before they can diagnose it.

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Subject : Carpinus betulus  
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