Carpinus caroliniana

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: American hornbeam 
Type: Tree
Family: Betulaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 20.00 to 35.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 35.00 feet
Bloom Time: February
Bloom Description: White (female), Green (male)
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Street Tree, Naturalize
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Clay Soil, Black Walnut


Easily grown in average, medium moisture soil in part shade to full shade. Prefers moist, organically rich soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Carpinus caroliniana, commonly called American hornbeam, is a slow-growing, deciduous, small to medium-sized understory tree with an attractive globular form. It is native to Missouri where it is typically found in rich moist woods, valleys, ravine bottoms and rocky slopes along streams throughout the eastern and Ozark regions of the state (Steyermark). Typically grows 20-35' tall. The smooth, gray trunk and larger branches of a mature tree exhibit a distinctive muscle-like fluting that has given rise to another common name of musclewood for this tree. Flowers appear in spring in separate male and female catkins, with the female catkins giving way to distinctive clusters of winged nutlets. Serrated, elliptic-oval, dark green leaves often produce respectable shades of yellow, orange and red in fall. The extremely hard wood of this tree will, as the common name suggests, take a horn-like polish and was once used by early Americans to make bowls, tool handles and ox yokes. Commercial use of hornbeam wood is not practicable, however, due to the limited amount of wood that can be harvested per tree.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name.

Specific epithet means of North or South Carolina.


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spots, cankers and twig blight are occasional disease problems.


An attractively shaped, low-maintenance understory tree for shady sites. May be grown in lawns or naturalized in woodland areas.