Sunday, 3 November 2019


At this time of the year Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, is particularly attractive. The foliage is, frankly, rather ordinary. I photographed some examples earlier today at the edge of Byfield Pocket Park.
The foliage of the Hornbeam is not exciting. Byfield Pocket Park.
3 November, 2019

It is the female catkins which catch the eye. Each fruit, which is technically a nut, is held within attractive bracteoles. Now, in early November, they have taken on a pale golden colour and they hang in tassels which I find most pleasing.
But the tassel-like female catkins are a different matter.

A closer view gives a glimpse of the details, the bracteoles and nuts being clearer (perhaps).

A closer view. Byfield Pocket Park, 3 November, 2019
Is hornbeam a native of Northamptonshire? Despite the comment by John Gerard, who wrote, in 1587: The Hornbeame tree groweth plentifully in Northamptonshire,  its status in our county is unclear, and precisely where Gerard saw it growing 'plentifully' is equally unclear. (Ref. 1.) There is no doubt it is native in Epping Forest and the south-east of England. It attracts a handful of leaf mining insects and galls but so far I have found none, perhaps indicating a non-native status. Elsewhere it has certainly been widely planted, perhaps initially for its very hard wood, which was used for cart axles, cogs, spindles and so on.

More recently it has been extensively as a street tree, particularly in the very attractive form 'fastigiata', and  can be seen in Banbury, Daventry and indeed across Britain.

In its fastigiate form, hornbeam is extensively planted as
a street tree.
It has occasionally been given its own family as the Carpinaceae, (Ref. 2 for example) but today is generally included with the hazels in the Corylaceae.


1. Gerard, John.  His 'Herball' was published in 1597.

2. Anon (Revised 1974)  Hilliers' Manual of Trees and Shrubs. David and Charles

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