Carpinus betulus

Pyramidal European Hornbeam

The densely branched Pyramidal European Hornbeam is columnar when young and grows into its stately namesake shape as it ages, up to 80 feet tall where it is native in Europe and Central Asia. The tree has a distinctive fluted gray bark and sharply-toothed dark green foliage that turns yellow-orange in autumn. Planted in groups, it works perfectly as a screen or windbreak and can work equally well as a formal hedge with hard pruning. It’s best pruned during the late summer to mid-winter period, when significant bleeding can be avoided. In Europe, it is a popular tree for pleaching, a kind of large-scale topiary gardening where trees are grown together in a natural form of interwoven grafting. This became a common gardening practice in the medieval era, when the tree was celebrated for its shade-producing qualities. In fact the hornbeam has been in cultivation for such a long time there is no noted date of introduction.

However, it was introduced to North America sometime during the colonial era. The common ‘hornbeam’ name is due to the tree’s extremely hard wood, which will take on a horn-like smooth polish, and was once widely used in Europe to make oxen yokes, the wide beam between the animal’s horns.

The tree grows easily in medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to dappled shade. The Pyramidal European Hornbeam has flowering catkins that form in early spring before its foliage emerges. The male catkins, which are up to 1.5 inches long, are yellowish and the longer female catkins, which are up to to 3 inches, are more greenish in their hue. It fruits into small nuts, which appear in drooping 5 inch clusters in the summer.


Deer Resistance: YES
Your Hardiness Zone:
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Sunset Heat Zones: 2 - 9 and 14 - 17
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 - 8
Watering Requirements: Weekly, or possibly more often in containers or extreme heat
Growth Rate: Moderate
Mature Size: Up to 12’ height and 4’ width
Sun/Shade: Full Sun
Drought Tolerance: Yes
Pest/Disease Issues: No serious insect or disease problems. Resistant to verticillium. Susceptible to scales and root rot.