American Hornbeam

Botanical Name:
Carpinus caroliniana

Family Name:
Betulaceae / Birch

The American Hornbeam is a slow growing tree with an expansive root system. The tree is a common tree in forested areas and is a popular ornamental choice because it is relatively low maintenance and resistant to most pests and disease.


Habitat and Range:
The American Hornbeam is commonly found in the understory of hardwood forests. It prefers to grow in well-draining soil near lakes, swamps, and rivers but can tolerate occasional flooding once established. While it prefers partial shade, it will also grow in full shade or full sun. The tree is native to the eastern United States.

The American Hornbeam provides year-round splendor. In the spring, serrated oval leaves emerge reddish-purple, change to dark green in the summer, and finally create an incredible rainbow of colors in fall with fiery reds, golden yellows, and oranges being seen on the same tree. During winter, the zig zagging branches and sinewy ridges of the bark provide interest. Springtime also brings inconspicuous flowers called catkins that may look like groups of smaller leaves. These catkins can be male or female, and female catkins will later develop nutlets in the fall.

Wildlife Value:
Seeds, buds, and catkins are eaten by several songbirds, ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, bobwhite, turkey, fox, and gray squirrels. Cottontails, beaver, and white-tailed deer eat the leaves, twigs, and larger stems. This tree is heavily used by beavers as the beaver and the hornbeam prefer many of the same habitats.

Did you Know?
• The hard wood of the American hornbeam is used to make golf clubs, tool handles, and mallets
• This tree is sometimes called musclewood because the trunk and branches have ridges that look like muscles.

Benefits to Our Community (based on carbon dioxide sequestered, storm water runoff avoided, and air pollution removed each year):
Over the next 15 years, this tree will give back $60 worth of benefits to our community.