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Carpinus betulus, commonly known as European hornbeam or simply hornbeam, is a versatile and attractive deciduous tree that can make a valuable addition to your garden. Its adaptability and striking features, from distinctive serrated leaves to attractive bark, make it an excellent choice for both ornamental and functional purposes. It is a medium-sized tree with a dense, oval to round crown. It features smooth, greyish-brown bark with prominent fluting, creating an eye-catching visual effect. In ideal conditions, European hornbeam can reach a height of 8-10 meters, with a similar spread. Native to Europe, Western Asia, and parts of North Africa, Carpinus betulus is well-suited to a range of climates. It can be used for a variety of purposes, from providing shade and privacy to use in hedging, topiary, and as a windbreak. The tree's inconspicuous, wind-pollinated flowers appear in spring and are followed by small, winged fruits. Carpinus betulus is hardy and can tolerate a range of soil types and weather conditions. Its leaves are deciduous, serrated, and alternate in arrangement, showcasing a bright green colour in spring and summer, turning to golden hues in autumn.



Carpinus betulus is relatively drought-tolerant once established but benefits from regular watering during dry periods, especially when it's young. Deep, infrequent watering is preferable to encourage the development of a strong and extensive root system.



Fertilise in early spring with a balanced, slow-release fertiliser to provide essential nutrients. Avoid excessive fertilisation, which can lead to excessive growth and weaker wood.



Pruning is best carried out during the dormant season in late winter or early spring. Focus on removing any dead or diseased branches and shaping the tree as desired. Carpinus betulus responds well to pruning and can be shaped into hedges or topiary.



Mature European hornbeams are generally hardy and don't require special winter protection. Young trees may benefit from mulch around the base to protect their roots from frost.


Birds & Bees

The small fruits of Carpinus betulus are a valuable food source for various bird species. The tree also provides shelter for birds and insects, making it a valuable addition to wildlife-friendly gardens.



In the wild, European hornbeam is commonly found in woodlands and along the edges of forests in its native range. In New Zealand, it can be successfully grown in a wide range of regions, as long as it's provided with well-draining soil and adequate moisture.



Carpinus betulus can be propagated from seeds, but it's often more reliable to propagate through hardwood cuttings taken during the dormant season. Root cuttings can also be used to propagate new trees.



European hornbeam is generally resistant to most diseases. However, occasional issues like powdery mildew and canker can occur, especially in stressed or overcrowded trees. Good cultural practices, including proper spacing and airflow, can help prevent these problems.


Insects & Pests

Hornbeams are relatively resistant to pests, but they can sometimes be affected by aphids, scale insects, and leafhoppers. Regular inspection and appropriate insecticidal treatments can address these issues if they arise.



If Carpinus betulus is not suitable for your garden, consider other deciduous trees like beech (Fagus sylvatica), oaks (Quercus spp.), or Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) for similar qualities in terms of aesthetics and adaptability.


Plants to Pair With

When planting European hornbeam, consider pairing it with other native or complementary plants, such as underplanting with low-growing ground covers, flowering shrubs, or perennials.

Carpinus betulus - Europoean Hornbeam

    • Evergreen: No
    • Flower colour: Inconspicuous
    • Mature size: 6m wide x 8m tall
    • Temperature: Hardy
    • Light: Sun/semi shade
    • Moisture: Medium, but prefers good watering
    • Soil: Well drained
    • Wind tolerance: Hardy


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