Common Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus

Identification Features

  • Bark: Grey with a hint of silver, smooth, developing vertical lines/fissures which give the overall impression of elephant skin.
  • Twigs: Fine, grey-brown, partly hairy at first.
  • Buds: Small (4-7mm), Claw-like, slender and pointed, arranged alternately.

Description/General Character:
A general upright character with densely packed, fine branches and a muscular trunk.

Native to southern UK, Europe and Asia Minor.

Can appear in pure stands. Was heavily coppiced in places. Tolerates heavy clay soils, and can be dominant there.

Other Observations:
Male catkins are enclosed in buds during the winter, after which they emerge yellowy-green with red-brown scales, with a similar character to those of birch and alder. The timber is very hard. “Hornbeam” derives from horn meaning hard, and beamthe Anglo-Saxon word for tree (c.f. beams in your roof and the German for tree - baum).

Author: Paul

Paul has had an interest in the outdoors since he was a young kid. Walking, tracking and exploring the wilderness around him, from disused overgrown railway lines to the vast wilderness of the UK national parks. Over the last few years Paul has honed his skills into specific areas of bushcraft and survival. He is an expert in map reading, shelter building and knots, traps and fishing.


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