in Species Guide
Latin name : Carpinus Family : Betulaceae Genus : Carpinus

Recognizing hornbeam

Hornbeam is recognized by:

  • Its fluted gray muscular trunks. Its gray bark, which is smooth while young.
  • Its alternate deciduous leaves, with their serrated edge and deeply furrowed surface.
  • Its fruits (achenes), which grow in clusters
  • Its catkins that hang down in bunches

Sites favored by hornbeam


Average annual temperature of 10°C. The hornbeam likes light or semi-shade. It likes hot summers but does not appreciate a drought.


Average annual rainfall of at least 800 mm. Can still be affected by hydromorphy.


Hornbeam likes fresh, damp clayey and/or silty soils. It will thrive on chalk soils but does not do very well in acidic or hydromorphic soils. It is found up to 1,300 m altitude.

Root development of the hornbeam

  • Shallow, running root development.
  • Vulnerable to strong winds.

Growth and production of hornbeam

  • Quite slow

Hornbeam plantation

Hornbeam is not planted as part of a single species plantation. There are very few pure hornbeam forests in France.

It is mainly found in coppices with standards, especially oak or beech (oak-hornbeam forests, or beech-hornbeam forests) due to its small size: it rarely exceeds 20 meters high. It is thus often found in mixed forests.

Otherwise, this species is very popular in gardens, where it is often planted as a tree tunnel or hedge. In this case, the plants are spaced 30 cm to 1 meter apart. Once the hornbeam hedge has developed, the new shoots simply need trimming to keep the hedge shape.

Hornbeam wood

  • Light white wood.
  • Very hard, heavy wood (one of the hardest deciduous trees).
  • Sawing can be difficult because of the wood’s hardness.
  • Marked veining.
  • The best deciduous firewood.
  • Used in joinery, for parquet flooring, decoration and toys.
  • Trade name: Hornbeam

Hornbeam health

Not affected by any major disease.

Economic view

Hornbeam is highly sought for firewood as it is an excellent source of fuel.

However, there is not a large market among sawmills as it is very hard and not used much in construction.

It is widely appreciated by both novice and expert gardeners and hornbeam hedges are common.

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