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. It requires a warm climate for good growth, and occurs only at elevations up to 600 metres (1,969 ft). 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'.
|Tree in summer|
|Scientific classification |
It is a deciduous small to medium-size tree reaching heights of 15–25 metres (49–82 ft), rarely 30 m (98 ft), 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 10 mm (0.39 in) long at the most, and pressed close to the twig. The leaves are alternate, 4–9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) 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 7–8 mm (0.28–0.31 in) long nut, partially surrounded by a three-pointed leafy involucre 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in) 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. 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.
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. Carpinus betulus likes full sun or partial shade, 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 and the cultivar C. betulus 'Fastigiata' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- Brown, John (1816). Encyclopaedia Perthensis. 23. p. 364.
- http://www.gardeningcentral.org/hornbeam_tree/hornbeam_tree.html Tree Profile for Hornbeam
- Rackham, Oliver (2003). Ancient Woodland; its history, vegetation and uses in England (New Edition). Castlepoint Press. ISBN 1-897604-27-0.
- https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/3136/i-Carpinus-betulus-i/Details RHS page on common hornbeam
- Łańcucka-Środoniowa M.: Macroscopic plant remains from the freshwater Miocene of the Nowy Sącz Basin (West Carpathians, Poland) [Szczątki makroskopowe roślin z miocenu słodkowodnego Kotliny Sądeckiej (Karpaty Zachodnie, Polska)]. Acta Palaeobotanica 1979 20 (1): 3-117.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Carpinus betulus". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Carpinus betulus 'Frans Fontaine'". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Carpinus betulus.|
- Den virtuella floran: Carpinus betulus distribution
- Carpinus betulus - information, genetic conservation units and related resources. European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN)