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Carpinus caroliniana

Pronunciation: Car-pine-us car-o-lin-ee-a-na
Family: Betulaceae (birch family)
Common Name: American hornbeam, musclewood, ironwood, blue beech
Plant Type:
  • trees, shrubs
Height to: 50'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • -30 to -40ºF ZONE 3
  • -20 to -30ºF ZONE 4
  • -10 to -20ºF ZONE 5
  • 0 to -10ºF ZONE 6
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
Sun Exposure:
  • full shade
  • part sun
  • full sun
Bloom Description: Male and female flowers are in separate catkins on the same tree. The male catkins are along the branchlets and the female catkins at the branchlet tips. The fruit is a small nut, 1/3 in (0. 8 cm) long and attached to the base of a 3-lobed leaflike bract. Several bracts are arranged one above another on a hanging stalk 4-6 in 10. 2-15. 2 cm) long. The whole affair looks a little like a dangling japanese pagoda, first green, then becoming yellowish brown as it matures. The leaves turn yellow, orange, red and reddish purple in fall.
Propagation: Fresh seed germinates fairly reliably. Older seed must be cold stratified for 3-4 months before it will germinate
Native to: American hornbeam is a common and widespread understory tree in lowland mixed forests throughout eastern north america from quebec to minnesota, south to florida and eastern texas, and on into mexico, guatemala and belize. It grows in bottomland forests, swamps and along rivers and streams in association with other deciduous hardwoods including maples, ashes, oaks, birches, alders and hickories.
Notes for Identification: Source: floridata - american hornbeam is an elegant little tree in the woodland garden. It thrives in the shade under larger trees, and requires no attention from its caregiver. For a tree, american hornbeam responds surprisingly well to heavy pruning and can be shaped as a hedge for a screen or used as a formal element in the landscape. The wood of american hornbeam is heavy, very hard and close grained. It has been used to make bowls and dishes because it does not crack or split, and for tool handles and mallets. It is not important commercially though, because the trees are so smallamerican hornbeam is a relatively slow growing tree, putting on only a foot or so of new growth per year. Although american hornbeam grows naturally in wetlands, once established, it is tolerant of moderate droughts and does fine in well-drained soils. It can tolerate occasional flooding.
Seed photo: 1
Located in: Seed Photos
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