Carpinus caroliniana: Hornbeam

Also known as the smooth-barked ironwood.

Family: Betulaceae [birch], part of the fagoid group [with oaks].

Form: small tree, often up to 20-35 feet tall; no lateral root-suckers.

Range: eastern North America; widespread across Kentucky.

Habitat: woods, typically on moist, moderately fertile soils, especially on lower slopes and stream terraces, but not wetlands; formerly common in prime farmland (as in the Bluegrass), but wood much exploited for tools; slow to spread back into young woods.

Consumers: seeds (nutlets) probably eaten by small mammals; leaves very bitter with tannins and little browsed, but often eaten by insects; wood very hard and durable but borers sometimes a problem.

Growing notes: seed germinates after moist cold period, but must be protected from small mammals; plants are slow growing but easily transplanted for elegant native landscaping, woodland restoration.


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