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Carpinus betulus (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Carpinus betulus (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Zone
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Full, Partial, Shade
Regular Water
Moderate

Carpinus

Hornbeam
Betulaceae
Deciduous, Trees

Well-behaved, relatively small shade trees. Long life and good habits as street trees. Slow to moderate growth rate. Very hard, tough, heavy wood. Dark green, sawtooth-edged leaves color up in cold-winter climates, hang on late in season. Fruits (small, hard nutlets in leaflike bracts) are carried in attractive drooping clusters to 5 in. long. Mature trees need little or no pruning.

Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Carpinus betulus

Native Europe to Iran. Dense, pyramidal tree to 40 ft. high and eventually as broad as tall, with drooping outer branches. Purple or yellow fall color.

‘Emerald Avenue’: Upright, heat-resistant; a fine street tree.

‘Fastigiata’: Native from Europe to Iran. This is the variety commonly sold when you buy European hornbeam; and despite its name (‘Fastigiata’ implies very upright growth), it develops an oval-vase shape with age. Grows to about 40 ft. tall. Yellow or purple fall color.

‘Frans Fontaine’: This is the narrowest, to 35 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide, with inward-turning branches.

Carpinus caroliniana (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Carpinus caroliniana (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Carpinus caroliniana

Native to eastern North America. Round headed, grows to 25–30 ft. tall and wide, sometimes larger; can be single- or multitrunked. Smooth blue-gray bark has undulations that look like muscles flexing. Leaves turn mottled yellow and red (sometimes mostly yellow) in fall; ‘Native Flame’ leaves turn red. All drop ahead of C. betulus. Succeeds in full sun to heavy shade.

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