American Hornbeam


Hornbeam leafy branch


Introduction

The American hornbeam is also known as “musclewood” because its bark has taut, shallow fissures that mimic the texture of muscle. As stout as its nickname implies, the hornbeam is able to survive in plenty of shade, which makes it a great addition to shady areas that other trees would struggle with.

This tree is eligible for a $50 Tree Rebate. If you’d like help with the planting, check out our RiverSmart Homes program.

More detail: American Hornbeam’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name
American hornbeam

Latin Name
Carpinus caroliniana

Leaf
Alternate, 3–12 cm long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive corrugated texture, and a serrated margin

Flower
Flowers are on small greenish catkins, about one and a half inches long

Fruit/nut
Small, oval-shaped, hairy, and green fruits hang in clusters from a shared stalk

Twig/branches
Brown-colored and slender with alternating leaves

Bark
Smooth and greenish-grey, becoming shallowly fissured in old trees

Form
Broad base, becoming round at the top

Size
20 to 40 feet

Native Range
Native to eastern North America, from Minnesota and southern Ontario east to Maine, and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It also grows in Canada (southwest Quebec and southeast Ontario).

Type
Small deciduous tree

Seasonal Colors
Turns to bright orange and red on the fall

Soil
Grows in moist to wet soils and commonly occurs in swamps, along streams, and in wet bottomlands

Light
Prefers shade to partial shade

Similar Species
European hornbeam, Oriental hornbeam, Japanese hornbeam

Pests and Diseases
The American hornbeam is generally resistant to pests and diseases.

Rebate Eligibility
$50

Of Note
Hornbeams yield a very hard timber that give it the alternate name “ironwood.”

American hornbeam is an important food of gray squirrels in southern bottom-land hardwoods.

Photo Credits

scott.zona
Richard Webb
Flatbush Gardener
Nadiatalent