Hornbeam
(Carpinus betulus)
Simple
Linear
Alternate
Tree
Toothed
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
9-15 pairs of veins

leaves

Winter twig
Winter twig

fruits

mature fruits

bark

distribution map

The leaves are ovate and alternate, 3-10 cm long, with sharply double-toothed margins and 9-15 pairs of parallel veins, more obvious below. They are hairless, except for a few appressed hairs on the main vein below.

ID check

Hornbeam is a deciduous tree up to 30 m in height with a fluted trunk and smooth bark. It grows in woods and hedges, and is often coppiced or pollarded in oakwoods. It is native only on heavy clay soils in the South East of England.

Male and female flowers are arranged in pendulous catkins and grow separately on the same tree. The male catkins are 2.5-5 cm long. The females are about 2 cm long. They open in April and May.

Female flowers develop into long pendant clusters, with each fruit or 'nut' surrounded by a green 3-lobed 'leaf'. The middle lobe is much longer than the other two.

Like beech the leaves persist through winter when managed as a hedge.

Facts

  • The nuts are the staple food of hawfinches in autumn and winter.

  • The name 'hornbeam' means tough wood from 'horn', hard and 'beam' (German, baum), a tree.

  • The leaves are often tunnelled by 'miners', the larvae of small moths.

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