Hornbeam - Carpinus betulus

Hornbeam - Carpinus betulus

Leaves, flowers, fruits

The hornbeam has oval and oblong leaves, which have particularly pronounced veins and serrated edges. Like the beech, to which it resembles in various details, the hornbeam places the withered leaves on the lower branches during the winter season. Unlike the beech, however, its leaves are a lighter brown color and have a more tender structure. Hornbeam flowers are unisexual and gathered in catkins. Its fruits appear as small hazelnuts, wrapped in large trilobate leaf brates. The fruits are each carried on a wing formed by three lobes and appear hanging from the branches in groups that make the tree very decorative and a beautiful aesthetic impact during the autumn.


Sowing takes place in September, in the nursery, and then transplanted on the arrival of the following autumn, still in the nursery. The seedlings must then be cultivated for a period ranging from three or four years before proceeding with the final mesa planting. The plants will then be planted at a distance of about 40 centimeters from each other or alternated in two rows with 25 centimeters apart, with the foresight to always keep 40 centimeters between the plants that belong to the same row. In July it will be time to prune the young subjects finely, and then move on to a more abundant pruning in the following month, when the plant has acquired more vigor.


The hornbeam has a preference for a soil that is deep and fairly calcareous: it does not have great fertility requirements. On the other hand, it does not tolerate too compact soil, as well as too high persistent humidity.


The hornbeam prefers a sunny position, at times slightly shaded. It adapts easily to continental climates and has good resistance to cold hills and mountains, as well as to the summer heat of the plain.


Its watering is very simple: the soil requires irrigation when it is dry. It is advisable to repeat the watering even three times in the time of a few minutes, so that the substrate of the soil is able to absorb the water more easily. In the summer season, repeated spraying of the leaves has the salutary effect of moistening them and avoiding problems related to red spiders, which often infest the plant.


Hornbeam fertilization must be carried out from spring to autumn with the pause to be placed during the vegetative rest. It is advisable to use fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium and slow release organic fertilizers.


Propagation occurs by seed, in autumn, and then germinates in the month of May; by cuttings, in spring using the branches cut at the time of pruning and deprived of the apical part to be planted in compartments with a soil composed in equal measure of sand and peat .; by woody or semi-woody cutting, in spring or until mid-summer; finally by layering, in an operation that consists in layering branches or trunks in May.


Among the most dangerous enemies of the hornbeam is certainly the little family, a fungus that can lead to the sudden death of the plant, causing its root system to rot in a short time.

Hornbeam: Use

If in nature it gives life to numerous woods, it has often been used to create trees and to enrich parks during the centuries of the past. To this day the hornbeam remains a tree that has great appreciation for its ornamental value and that can easily be placed even in small gardens, if types of hornbeam with contained growth and columnar bearing are chosen. Its charm for its location in the garden is given in particular by its physical characteristics, which see it in possession of a rare form of elegance, with very suggestive changes in color from green to golden yellow. In addition, the excellent tolerance to pruning allows him to be able to easily lend himself to typical gardening work, without having negative consequences on his own health.

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