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American Hornbeam

Carpinus caroliniana

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American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) at Sargent's Gardens

American Hornbeam

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) at Sargent's Gardens

American Hornbeam in fall

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) at Sargent's Gardens

American Hornbeam bark

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height:  30 feet

Spread:  25 feet

Sunlight:  full sun  partial shade  full shade 

Hardiness Zone:  3b

Other Names:  Blue Beech, Ironwood, Musclewood, Water Beech


A beautiful and underused native woodland tree; very interesting gray bark is almost muscular in appearance, makes a strong winter statement; also excellent blend of fall colors and curious hop-like fruit; good small multipurpose shade tree

Ornamental Features

The American Hornbeam has forest green deciduous foliage on a tree with a round habit of growth. The pointy leaves turn an outstanding orange in the fall. It produces small clusters of tan hop-like fruit from early fall to late winter. The smooth silvery blue bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

The American Hornbeam is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It has no significant negative characteristics.

The American Hornbeam is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Planting & Growing

The American Hornbeam will grow to be about 30 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 25 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 4 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 80 years or more.

This tree performs well in both full sun and full shade. It is an amazingly adaptable plant, tolerating both dry conditions and even some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is native to parts of North America.

Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight
Accent  Shade  Naturalizing 
Fruit  Fall Color  Bark  Winter Value 
Ornamental Features