Carpe, also known as (Carpinus betulus), is a deciduous tree and is native to the southern parts of the UK, but is commonly planted elsewhere.
You will find it growing in an oak forest where it is usually topped or regrown.
Identify a hornbeam tree
An adult hornbeam will live up to 350 years (if topped or cut) and can grow up to 30 m in height.
The common beech is often confused with hornbeam. It has a smooth, stubby, and deformed trunk, which becomes matched with age. The gray bark is pale and has vertical markings running through it. The twigs have small hairs and are brown to gray in color. The leaf buds are very similar to beech buds, only slightly shorter, with a slight curve at the tips. The leaves are oval in shape, serrated and with pointed tips. They are smaller and furrowed compared to beech trees; they also change from yellow to orange during the fall before falling.
Hornbeam has a monoecious reproductive system, which means that male and female flowers (catkins) are found within the same tree. Once pollinated, usually by the wind, they turn into paper-thin winged fruits; these are known as samaras.
Importance to wildlife
Hornbeam does not shed its leaves and provides year-round shelter for birds, as well as opportunities to rest and feed.
The leaves are usually eaten by moth caterpillars such as the walnut bush. Small mammals will eat the seeds during the fall, along with small birds like teats and finches.
Myths and legends
A tonic made from the tree was thought to be helpful in curing drowsiness and fatigue. The leaves were also used to heal wounds.
How we use hornbeam
The wood has a mottled grain and is cream to white in color. You will find this wood to be very strong and durable, and it has many uses for flooring and furniture.
Historically it was used to make ox yokes (this is a wooden beam that is placed on the shoulders of an ox so that it can pull carts), as well as chopping blocks for butchers and parts for water and windmills. It was also used to make poles from pruned and trimmed trees.
The wood rubs very well and is often used to make charcoal and firewood.
Threats, pests and diseases
As with most trees, hornbeam can be vulnerable to some fungal diseases, particularly Phytophthora. Gray squirrels can also damage trees by removing their bark.