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CARPINUS caroliniana

Image of Carpinus caroliniana

James H. Schutte

Family

Betulaceae

Botanical Name

CARPINUS caroliniana

Plant Common Name

American Hornbeam, Musclewood

General Description

A slow-growing, spreading-canopied deciduous tree, American hornbeam is native to southeastern North America from Canada to Mexico. The ridged, gray, smooth bark looks like there are flexed muscles under it, yielding another common name of musclewood. It may also grow with many trunks and attain a form much more shrub-like, albeit large.

The pretty, oblong, tapered leaves have depressed veins and double-teeth on their edges. In spring, male and female flowers appear separately on the same tree, but only the drooping females catkin blossoms are of interest. After being wind-pollinated, the catkins give way to winged clusters of green fruits that ripen to brown. In autumn, the leaves turn primarily shades of yellow, but it is common to have variable flushes of red and orange, too.

Grow American hornbeam in full to partial sun or even nearly full shade spots. It does best in deep, fertile acidic soils. Use it as a specimen shade or street tree, or as a screening hedge since it tolerates shearing well.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade

  • Height

    20'-40' / 6.1m - 12.2m

  • Width

    35'-50' / 10.7m - 15.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Texas, Mexico, Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Yellow Green, Orange Red

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Bark Color

    Slate Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Hedges, Screening / Wind Break, Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No