Carpinus betulus L.

European hornbeam, common hornbeam
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Carpinus betulus
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Carpinus betulus: Appearance of a young specimen in spring and summer

Appearance of a young specimen in spring and summerBranch with ovate or elliptic leaves with an acuminate axis, doubly serrate margins and highly marked parallel veinsBranch with a hanging male catkin and a female catkin at the tip; in female flowers the styles are divided into two slender pink tubes  Branch with 3 lenticular fruits (catkins), each at the base of a large 3-lobed bract

Carpinus: Ancient Latin name for hornbeam and its timber, which in turn derives from "kerp-", "skerp-" = to cut, referring to the serrated margins of hornbeam leaves

betulus, -a, -um: from "betula", the Latin name for birch trees (Betula spp.), which the hornbeam is closely related to


Habit: Deciduous, monoecious tree up to 25 m tall with a smooth grayish bark and a broad, rounded crown.

Leaves: alternate, deciduous, simple, 4-10 cm long x 2.5-5 cm wide, with deciduous stipules; blade ovate, with a somewhat asymmetrical rounded or cordate base and an acuminate apex, straight and highly marked secondary veins and doubly serrate margins, glabrous, except for the vein axils on the underside.

Flowers: unisexual, proteranthous, on bracted catkins; male flowers naked, with 6-20 stamens; female flowers with a very small calyx and a syncarpous 2-carpellate gynoecium with a bilocular inferior ovary and a style divided into two long green branches.

Fruit: lenticular achene with marked longitudinal ribs, located at the base of a highly characteristic large bract 2-4 cm long that has 3 lobes and whose central lobe is longer than the lateral ones. Fruiting catkins 5-14 cm long.


It flowers in spring and fruits mature at the end of the summer or the beginning of autumn.

Geographic origin

Native to C Europe and SW Asia. In the Iberian Peninsula it is only known to occur in Navarre.


It is cultivated in parks and gardens, particularly to make hedges.

It is propagated from seeds or grafted.

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