Hornbeam is a native, deciduous tree or shrub from the genus Carpinus. It is commonly mistaken for Beech hedging (Fagus Sylvatica), however if you know what to look for the difference between Beech and Hornbeam is easy to spot! Hornbeam leaves are sharply serrated on the edges whilst Beech leaves are smooth.
The flowers are wind pollinated, pendulous catkins which appear in the spring. Hornbeam plants are monoecious, meaning that the male and female catkins are on separate flowers but on the same tree. The female catkins turn into green winged fruits called samaras. You can identify which type of Hornbeam tree it is based on the shape of these fruits.
Previously, a tonic was made from hornbeam plants to help relieve tiredness and exhaustion, whilst the leaves were used to stop bleeding and heal wounds. It is thought that the maze in Hampton Court was once made from Hornbeam hedges before it was yew and holly.
Hornbeam is derived from the Old English, horn meaning hard and beam being the old word for tree. Hornbeam yields very hard wood and is used for making many items including carving boards, tool handles, chess pieces and parquet flooring.
Hornbeam hedging is one of our most popular options as the foliage turns coppery brown in autumn to create a lovely warm effect. Although they are deciduous, the leaves do stay on the branches through winter providing year-round cover. At Best4hedging, we are often asked which is best between Hornbeam and Beech as they do look quite similar. Hornbeam is better in wet soils than Beech, whereas Beech leaves are more brightly coloured in autumn, so it depends on your personal preference.
Hornbeam works well when mixed with other native hedging, so why not create your own native tapestry with a choice of different species, or take a look at our full selection of hedge plants for a range of different seasonal features.
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