Carpinus caroliniana

American Hornbeam

American Hornbeam’s extraordinary hardiness makes it a perfect fit for modern lots and offers beautiful fall color from fiery yellow-orange to bright red.

  • Tolerates: Clay soil, Black walnut
  • Sun: Full Sun, Partial Shade
  • Bloom Season: February
  • Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Spread (Min): 20
  • Spread (Max): 35
  • Height (Min): 20
  • Height (Max): 35
  • Leaves vs Needles: Shade
  • Size: Medium


The American Hornbeam puts on a magical display in the Spring as its leaves unfurl a bold purple-red foliage. Nicknamed “Ironwood” and “Musclewood”, its muscular trunk and fine-textured bark with ridges that look like muscles brings winter interest. It’s crooked trunk and pendulous, zig-zagging branches help attract wildlife. Finches, ruffed grouse and wild turkeys eat American hornbeam nutlets and scientists estimate there are well over 65 types of butterflies who rely on the leaves to host their larvae. The American Hornbeam’s tolerance of wet sites is another unique characteristic of its tough durability; it can withstand periodic flooding, extreme heat, and almost total shade. It will not tolerate compacted soils though, and should not be planted in areas that have undergone grade changes.