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Hornbeam Carpinus betulus

Description & features

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Product Description



Hornbeam a large native tree, though probably only truly native in the south and east of England as one of the last of the species to arrive from continental Europe before the formation of the English Channel after the last Ice Age. A tree with a maximum height of 25m (80ft) though often less, it is upright when young but eventually forms a rounded, elongated head. The leaves are oval and similar in size and form to beech, though with more prominent veins and rougher to the touch.

As a hedging plant, hornbeam is notable for retaining its leaves in winter, in dry brown form. This makes it a useful screen with more seasonal interest than an evergreen. Its autumn colour is yellow.

Where to grow

Hornbeam will grow well in full sun or shade. It will quite happily cope with damp or wet soils, and even with a certain amount of temporary waterlogging, making it a suitable alternative to beech in such situations.

It stands up well to hard pruning, has dense foliage and has been used more for hedges and topiary than as a woodland tree.

Did you know?

Hornbeam is a hard, heavy and tough timber with a number of uses. It can be pollarded, used as hedging and makes good firewood.

Possibly the most interesting use of this hard bony timber is for the intricate parts of pianos which convey the movement of the keys to the hammer.


Mature Height

Very Large - 20 metres+


15-20 metres

Shape / Habit

Round Headed

Growth Rate


Soil Type

All soil types

Sun Levels

Full sun
Partial shade

Difficulty / Hard to Grow


Evergreen / Deciduous


Autumn Colour


Leaf Colour



Early to Leaf
Small leaves


Parkland Tree
Garden Tree
City/Urban Sites
Used for Pleaching
Good Firewood
Timber producing
Wind break
Suitable for Topiary
Sound Barrier


Native Hedge
Holds its leaves

Native / Naturalised




Moisture Levels

Wet/Water logged sites

Other Features

Good for Windy sites


Pruning Carpinus betulus

Tree: Carpinus betulus (hornbeam) is a fast growing upright tree, rounding with age. Prune out any stems that are crossing or damaged, but otherwise no pruning is necessary. If needed to control size, it will generally respond well to hard pruning.

Hedge: Allow the hedge to grow to the required height and then prune annually to maintain shape. Hedges are usually grown up to a width of about 2ft (60cm), often with a slight taper so the bottom is wider.

Handheld pruning shears or secateurs will allow you to cut stems and avoid cutting through leaves, but may not be practical to use on a large hedge. A piece of string tied between two canes can help you to cut a straight line.

The upper part of the hedge tends to be more vigorous and will therefore need heavier pruning than the lower part.

When should I prune? Trees can be pruned from late summer through to midwinter. Avoid taking off branches earlier in the year as this can lead to bleeding.

For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.


The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.

Weed Control

One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital that for at least 3 years after planting your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass.

  1. Mulch mats are an effective way to stop grass and weeds, although they will require a careful eye to make sure they continue to work. After clearing the ground around the tree, firmly fit the mat by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. Be careful not to allow the woodchip to touch the stem as it can cause rot.
  2. Weed killer is very effective, however it is harmful to the environment. Organic weed killers usually do not kill roots. Weed killer needs to be applied each year for the first 3 years, preferably when the tree is dormant, or just once before applying a mulch mat.
  3. Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.


If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.

Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.

  • 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
  • 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
  • 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
  • 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
  • All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.


Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.

Protection from Animal Damage

Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.

Are the delivery costs the same no matter how many plants I order?

Yes the delivery costs stay the same no matter how many plants you have on your order. They are worked out based on your distance from our nursery and can be found here.

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