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Hornbeam - Carpinus betulus

Hornbeam - Carpinus betulus

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 Acidic, Sandy, Peaty Acidic, Sandy, Peaty
 Alkaline, Chalky, Calcareous Alkaline, Chalky, Calcareous
 Damp and Clays Damp and Clays
 Light Sand Light Sand
 Neutral Neutral
Autumn Interest Autumn Interest
Growth Rate: Moderate Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: Medium Height: Medium
Native Native
RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
Use: Firewood Use: Firewood
Use: Formal Use: Formal

Planting Accessories
Planting & Care
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RHS Award of Garden Merit

Often confused with beech at first sight, Hornbeam is a good substitute on wet or shady sites where Beech will not do well. It makes a medium-sized specimen tree on heavy clay soil in parklands and gardens where other trees will not thrive, and it is an excellent hedge, retaining its leaves over winter in the same way as Beech. It is also good for coppicing and pollarding, and along with Lime, it is most often used for making pleached hedges.

Site and soil

Hornbeam will do well on most soils including wet clays. It is also tolerant of shade and frost pockets, and because the timber is so strong, it withstands wind well without damage to the branches.

Height and spread

Below are the approximate stages of growth, assuming sited in suitable conditions for this species;

After 10 years: 6m x 4m
After 20 years: 11m x 6m

Leaf and bark

The leaves are ovate and sharply toothed, with prominent veins. They are between 7 – 12 cm long, mid green, turning yellow and orange before leaf fall in autumn. The leaves are retained over winter on hedging. The bark is grey and fluted, often twisted with age.

Flower, seed and fruit

The yellowish female catkins open in clusters in March and are followed by racemes of green winged fruits, which ripen to brown.


Hornbeam makes an elegant pyramidal, later rounded, specimen tree for parkland, woodland and larger gardens. It coppices well, and in the past older trees were pollarded. It makes a good hedge, retaining its dead leaves over winter, and is also used for making flat pleached hedges where each plant is given a good spacing and the branches are trained out horizontally on each side at regular intervals.

The wood is very hard and is used for butcher’s blocks, mallets, gun stocks, mill cogs and piano hammers.


Insects are attracted to the catkins in spring and several species of moth larvae feed on its leaves. Insects shelter in the crevices of the bark, providing food for birds.

More detailed information to follow, in the meantime follow this link to the Accessories Category

Can be grown into a tree or can be used as part of a mixed species within a native hawthorn hedge.

New hedgerows should be planted in two staggered rows 30cm apart.

We recommend 5 plants per metre.


Coppicing and pollarding should be carried out in winter. Hedges should be trimmed in summer.


Readily available advice

For additional information on planting and maintaining your plants, please see our advice pages.

We provide extensive articles, tips, and even tutorial videos, ideal for beginners and those with previous planting experience.


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