Carpi­nus be­tu­lus com­mon horn­beam

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Identifying Trees -

Poor old horn­beam is of­ten mis­taken for beech, which it re­sem­bles on sev­eral fronts. There are a cou­ple of iden­ti­fy­ing fea­tures that en­able you to tell them apart eas­ily, though, most no­tably the catkins in spring and the hop-like fruits in au­tumn and win­ter. It is a more ro­bust-look­ing tree too, with more de­ter­minedly cor­ru­gated leaves, and what could pass for rip­pling mus­cles be­low the bark sur­face. And it is not just an im­pres­sion of strength: horn­beam has the tough­est wood of all and was long com­monly known as ‘iron wood’, used to make cogs, axles and spokes be­fore iron was read­ily avail­able. In gar­dens it is usu­ally trimmed and shaped into smart hedges.

1 Bark

The pale-grey bark has ver­ti­cal mark­ings and the trunk some­times de­vel­ops a twist and mus­cu­lar ridges as the tree ages. On the twigs buds lie flat against the stems.

2 Catkins

Long, dan­gling catkins form on the tree in spring. These are the male catkins. Fe­male catkins form on the same tree but are smaller and less no­tice­able.

3 Leaves

Like beech leaves but smaller and with a deeper groove. A beau­ti­ful fresh green in spring, they turn yel­low then soft brown in au­tumn, and on small trees or hedges won’t drop un­til spring.

4 Fruit/seeds

Fruits, or sama­ras, are short chains of three winged nuts that bunch to­gether to look like hops, and hang in the tree long af­ter leaves fall.

5 Sil­hou­ette

A tall and broad wood­land tree, hand­some and well-bal­anced. The lower branches will droop as the tree grows and ma­ture spec­i­mens make won­der­ful climb­ing trees.

2 3 4 5

The horn­beam is most of­ten found in old wood­land, where it may be cop­piced for its wood. 1

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