Content Detail

European hornbeams are excellent in groupings around large buildings and also useful as screens, hedges, and windbreak trees. The European hornbeam has densely textured foliage and handsome, slate-gray smooth to fluted bark. The dark green leaves turn an attractive yellow in the fall, and the bark and buds are ornamental in winter.

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium tree (25-40 feet), Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-60 feet
  • Mature width 30-40 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Narrow, Pyramidal, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Moderate
  • Wildlife Birds, Insect pollinators, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

This is native to Europe and Asia.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is smooth and steel gray, but having a muscled character to its appearance. Older trees become more fluted.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

Leaves are simple, alternate, oblong, doubly serrated, with prominent veins and grow 2 to 5 inches long. Leaves are dark green changing to yellow late in season.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are inconspicuous. Tiny male flowers bloom in pendulous catkins in April and small female flowers bloom near the ends of the twigs.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Light brown nutlets mature in October, with a  three-lobed bract appearing as an umbrella over the nuts.  Nutlets and bracts hang in dangling clusters. Bracts change from light green to yellow in fall.

Plant care:

European hornbeam is adaptable to various soil pH and requires minimal pruning.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

No serious problems.

Emerald Avenue® European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘JFS-KW1CB’):

This variety grows 40 feet high and 30 feet wide with a broadly pyramidal habit.  Good heat tolerance.

Frans Fontaine European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’):

This variety grows 35 feet high and 15 feet wide with a narrow habit and maintains a fastigiate form longer than ‘Fastigiata’.

Upright European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’):

This variety grows 30 to 40 feet high and 20 to 30 feet wide with an oval, narrow habit.


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