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Overview

Brief Summary

Betulaceae -- Birch family

    F. T. Metzger

    American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), also called  blue-beech, ironwood, water-beech, or lechillo (Spanish), is a  small slow-growing short-lived tree in the understory of eastern  mixed hardwood forests. The short, often crooked trunk covered  with a smooth slate gray bark is characteristically ridged,  resembling the muscles of a flexed arm. The wood is  close-grained, very hard, and heavy but little used because such  a small tree is rarely converted into sawed products.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Comprehensive Description

Description

This small tree usually has a single trunk that is often crooked and a broad rounded crown; it is up to 35' tall. The trunk is up to 1¼' across; it is somewhat fluted and appears muscular, hence the common name. On young trees, the trunk bark is slate gray and very smooth, while on old trees the trunk bark is gray or brownish gray, irregularly and finely fissured, and slightly rough. The branches and twigs are relatively narrow and crooked; the bark of twigs is reddish brown to brown and smooth, while the bark of larger branches is gray and smooth. Alternate deciduous leaves occur in 2 ranks along twigs and young green shoots; the shoots are glabrous or pubescent. The leaf blades are 2½-5" long and 1-2" across; more narrow blades are elliptic to elliptic-oblanceolate in shape, while more wide blades are broadly elliptic to elliptic-oblanceolate. The margins of the leaf blades are doubly serrated. Veins of the leaf blades are arranged pinnately with 10-13 lateral veins on each side of the central vein; these lateral veins are nearly straight. The upper surface of the leaf blades is medium to dark green and hairless to sparsely short-hairy, while the lower surface is pale to medium green and sparsely short-hairy. Musclewood is monoecious, producing separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on the same tree. The male flowers are arranged in drooping sessile catkins about 1-2" long that are located toward the tips of twigs. Individual male flowers have several stamens that are partially hidden by single reddish green bractlets that are ovate-deltate in shape. The female flowers are arranged in pairs on short hairy racemes about ½-¾" long; these racemes develop at the tips of twigs. Individual female flowers consist of an ovary with a pair of red stigmata; they are partially hidden by single green bractlets that are narrow in shape and somewhat spreading or recurved. The blooming period occurs during mid- to late spring as the leaves begin to develop; the flowers are cross-pollinated by wind. Afterwards, the paired female flowers are replaced by paired nutlets and bracts that develop in dangling racemes about 2-5" long. Each nutlet lies at the base of a 3-lobed bract that is about 1¼" long, 1" across, and hastate in shape; these bracts become light brown at maturity. Each mature nutlet is about ¼" long, broadly ovoid in shape, and tapering to a short beak; its thin husk is brown and slightly hairy. Because of their relatively large bracts, these nutlets are distributed by the wind to a limited extent. The woody root system is shallow and spreading. During the autumn, the deciduous leaves turn yellow, orange, or red before falling to the ground.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

General: Birch Family (Betulaceae). American hornbeam is a native, large shrub or small tree with a wide-spreading, flat-topped crown, the stems slender, dark brown, hairy; bark gray, thin, usually smooth, with smooth, longitudinal fluting (resembling a flexed muscle). Its leaves are deciduous, simple, alternate, ovate to elliptic, 3-12 cm long, with doubly-serrate edges, dark green, turning yellow to orange or red in the fall, glabrous above, slightly to moderately pubescent beneath, especially on major veins, with or without conspicuous dark glands. The flowers are unisexual, in catkins, the male (staminate) catkins 2-6 cm long, female (pistillate) catkins 1-2.5 cm long, both types on the same plant (the species monoecious). Fruits are a nutlet 4-6 mm long, subtended by a 3-winged, narrow, leaf-like bract, numerous nutlets held together in pendulous chain-like clusters 2.5-12 cm long, changing from green to brown in September-October. The common name, beam, is an Old English word for tree, with horn suggesting an analogy of the hard, close-grained wood to the tough material of horns.

Variation within the species: the two subspecies are distinguished by morphology and geography. They hybridize or intergrade where their ranges overlap in a broad band running from the Carolinas south to northern Georgia and westward to Missouri, Arkansas, and southeastern Oklahoma. Plants with intermediate features are also found throughout the highlands of Missouri and Arkansas.

1. Leaf blades narrowly ovate to oblong-ovate, 3-8.5(-12) cm long, acute to obtuse at the tip; secondary teeth blunt and small; lower surfaces without small dark glands; southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal plains and also extends northward in the Mississippi Embayment. ............. subsp. caroliniana

2. Leaf blades ovate to elliptic, mostly 8-12 cm long, usually abruptly narrowing at the tip, sometimes long and gradually tapered; secondary teeth sharp-tipped, often almost as large as primary teeth; lower surfaces covered with tiny, dark glands; Appalachians and interior forested northeastern North America.

...................... subsp. virginiana (Marsh.) Furlow

Trees of temperate forests in the mountains of Mexico and Central America, formerly considered to be part of Carpinus caroliniana, are now treated as C. tropicalis (J.D. Smith) Lundell spp. tropicalis and C. tropicalis ssp. mexicana Furlow.

Distribution: Widespread in the eastern United States --- from central Maine west to southwestern Quebec, southeastern Ontario, northern Michigan, and northern Minnesota, south to central Iowa and eastern Texas, east to central Florida. Absent from the lowermost Gulf Coastal Plain and the Mississippi embayment south of Missouri).

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Ironwood, musclewood, muscle beech, blue beech, water beech

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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The range of American hornbeam extends from central Maine west to
southwestern Quebec, southeastern Ontario, northern Michigan, and
northern Minnesota; south to central Iowa and eastern Texas; and east to
central Florida [22].
  • 22. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Musclewood is occasional to locally common in most areas of Illinois, except in the NW section of the state, where it is uncommon or absent. Habitats include rich moist woodlands, east- and north-facing slopes of wooded bluffs, bases of wooded bluffs, shady ravines, wooded areas of river valleys, streambanks in wooded areas, higher ground in swamps, and shaded gravelly seeps. This tree also occurs in upland woodlands, where it is less common. Musclewood is a typical understory tree of Maple-Beech and Maple-Basswood woodlands.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Occurrence in North America

AL AR CT DE FL GA IN IL IA KS
KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NH
NJ NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX
VT VA WV WI ON PQ MEXICO

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American hornbeam is native to most of the eastern United States  and extends into Canada in southwest Quebec and southeast  Ontario. Its western limit is just beyond the Mississippi River  from north-central Minnesota to the Missouri River, where it  ranges southwestward into much of the Ozark and Ouachita  Mountains and eastern Texas. It grows throughout much of the  South but is absent from the Mississippi River bottom land south  of Missouri, the lowermost Gulf Coastal Plain, and the southern  two-thirds of Florida. Northward along the east coast, it is not  found in the New Jersey pine barrens, much of Long Island, Cape  Cod, northern and eastern Maine, and the White and Adirondack  Mountains. It is found in central and southern Mexico, Guatemala,  and western Honduras.

   
  -The native range of American hornbeam.


  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Carpinus americana var. tropicalis Donn. Sm.:
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Carpinus caroliniana Walter:
Canada (North America)
El Salvador (Mesoamerica)
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)
Honduras (Mesoamerica)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

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Adaptation

American hornbeam occurs primarily as an understory species in bottomland mixed-hardwood forests. Best sites are in the transition between mesic and wet areas -- near lakes and swamps, on well-drained terraces of rivers, terraces or steep slopes of minor streams with some gradient, coves, ravine bottoms, and rises in lowlands. These sites generally have abundant soil moisture but sufficient drainage to prevent saturation and poor aeration during the growing season, although trees may be abundant on sites flooded for up to about 20% of the growing season. American hornbeam occurs less commonly in upland hardwood forests and may range from 300-900 meters elevation in the Appalachian and Adirondack Mountains. In the northeastern US, it may be an early migrant and form pure stands in moist old fields; it may be a minor seral component of sapling-size tree-shrub communities along the mid-Atlantic coast. Flowering: March-May; fruiting: August-October.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the term: tree

American hornbeam is a native, deciduous small tree. It usually grows
30 to 40 feet (9-12 m) tall [4,13,32,39]. The bark is thin, close, and
usually smooth. The trunk is often crooked, and is usually coarsely
fluted, resembling a flexed muscle [4,7,13]. The fruit is a ribbed
nutlet 0.16 to 0.24 inch (4-6 mm) long [3,4]. It is usually described
as slow-growing and short-lived [27].

The largest American hornbeam on record for the Southeast was 75 feet
(22.8 m) tall, 21.6 (54.8 cm) d.b.h., and 67.8 inches (172.2 cm) in
circumference [42].
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 4. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 3. Apsley, David K.; Leopold, Donald J.; Parker, George R. 1985. Tree species response to release from domestic livestock grazing. Proceedings, Indiana Academy of Science. 94: 215-226. [23164]
  • 13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 32. Rudolf, Paul O.; Phipps, Howard. 1974. Carpinus L. horbeam. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 266-268. [7570]
  • 39. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 42. May, Dennis M. 1990. Big trees of the midsouth forest survey. Res. Note SO-359. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 17 p. [10556]

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Description

Trees , to 12 m; trunks short, often crooked, longitudinally or transversely fluted, crowns spreading. Bark gray, smooth to somewhat roughened. Wood whitish, extremely hard, heavy. Winter buds containing inflorescences squarish in cross section, somewhat divergent, 3--4 mm. Leaf blade ovate to elliptic, 3--12 × 3--6 cm, margins doubly serrate, teeth typically obtuse and evenly arranged, primary teeth often not much longer than secondary; surfaces abaxially slightly to moderately pubescent, especially on major veins, with or without conspicuous dark glands. Inflorescences: staminate inflorescences 2--6 cm; pistillate inflorescences 1--2.5 cm. Infructescences 2.5--12 cm; bracts relatively uncrowded, 2--3.5 × 1.4--2.8 cm, lobes narrow, elongate, apex nearly acute, obtuse, or rounded, central lobe (1--)2--3 cm.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: tree

American hornbeam exhibits its best growth on rich, moist soils in
bottomlands, coves, and lower protected slopes. It is also common along
the borders of streams and swamps including bay and river swamps in
Florida [6,8,27], and is also found in hydric hammocks in Florida [8].
The best sites for American hornbeam are characterized by abundant soil
moisture but sufficient drainage to prevent saturation and poor aeration
during the growing season [27]. American hornbeam is primarily found on
poorly to imperfectly drained sites, although it grows on well-drained
sites also [21]. Hook [41] rated American hornbeam as only weakly
tolerant of flooding, although it occurs on sites that have a high
probability of flooding in any given year. He commented that mature
trees remain healthy if flooded less than 24 percent of the growing
season, but are most abundant where flooding occurs 10 to 21 percent of
the growing season [41]. In the Adirondack Mountains, American hornbeam
is found on soils derived from limestone, gneiss, shale, and sandstone
[21]. The usual soil pH range for American hornbeam sites is acidic (pH
4.0-5.6), but the tree can be found on soils as high as pH 7.4 [27].

Maximum elevation for American hornbeam is about 2,900 feet (900 m) in
the southern Appalachians [7]. Its upper elevational range is 3,000
feet (910 m) in the Great Smoky Mountains, but is more common at about
1,600 feet (490 m) [27]. In the Adirondack Mountains, New York,
American hornbeam occurs from 200 to 1,020 feet (60-311 m) elevation [21].
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 8. Ewel, Katherine C. 1990. Swamps. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 281-322. [17392]
  • 21. Kudish, Michael. 1992. Adirondack upland flora: an ecological perspective. Saranac, NY: The Chauncy Press. 320 p. [19376]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 41. Hook, D. D. 1984. Waterlogging tolerance of lowland tree species of the South. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 8: 136-149. [19808]

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Key Plant Community Associations

American hornbeam primarily occurs in the understory of bottomland
mixed-hardwood forests, but also occurs in dry-mesic upland hardwood
forests [27]. Understory associates of American hornbeam in all parts
of its range include eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), flowering
dogwood (Cornus florida), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), witch-hazel
(Hamamelis virginiana), serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), and speckled
alder (Alnus rugosa). In the northern parts of its range, understory
associates include striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum), mountain maple
(A. spicatum), red mulberry (Morus rubra), pawpaw (Asimina triloba),
serviceberries, and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Southern
associates include magnolias (Magnolia spp.), deciduous holly (Ilex
decidua), American holly (I. opaca), winged elm (Ulmus alata), sweetbay
(Magnolia virginiana), water-elm (Planera aquatica), parsley hawthorn
(Crataegus marshallii), riverflat hawthorn (C. opaca), common persimmon
(Diospyros virginiana), and Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana)
[6,27].
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
44 Chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow-poplar
58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
61 River birch - sycamore
62 Silver maple - American elm
63 Cottonwood
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak
73 Southern redcedar
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
97 Atlantic white-cedar
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
108 Red maple
110 Black oak

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K116 Subtropical pine forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Musclewood is occasional to locally common in most areas of Illinois, except in the NW section of the state, where it is uncommon or absent. Habitats include rich moist woodlands, east- and north-facing slopes of wooded bluffs, bases of wooded bluffs, shady ravines, wooded areas of river valleys, streambanks in wooded areas, higher ground in swamps, and shaded gravelly seeps. This tree also occurs in upland woodlands, where it is less common. Musclewood is a typical understory tree of Maple-Beech and Maple-Basswood woodlands.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Soils and Topography

Best growth and development of American hornbeam occurs on rich,  wet-mesic sites, but it is not restricted to such sites and can  tolerate a wide variety of conditions. Habitat requirements and  tolerances of the species are similar across its range.

    Soils primarily associated with the species are in the orders  Alfisols, Ultisols, and Inceptisols but American hornbeam also  occurs on Entisols, Spodosols, Histosols, and Mollisols.

    The best sites may be characterized as having abundant soil  moisture but sufficient drainage to prevent saturation and poor  aeration of the soil during the growing season (4,51). Typically,  the best sites are alluvial or colluvial soils in the transition  zone between mesic and wet areas (46), as near lakes and swamps  (35), on well-drained terraces of rivers (32,45), terraces or  steep slopes of minor streams with some gradient (39), coves,  ravine bottoms (33), and rises in lowlands (40). Surface soil  layers are somewhat poorly to well drained but the subsoil may  not be as well drained, may have a high fluctuating water table,  or may be of heavier texture. Soil water-holding capacity usually  is high (15,49). Upper soil horizons are primarily loams or of  loam-influenced textures. Nutrients and organic matter tend to  accumulate on these sites (36), and calcium and magnesium in  particular are normally more abundant than in surrounding soils  (13). Soil pH tends to be acidic-normally from 4.0 to 5.6-but can  be as high as 7.4 (35).

    The species also grows well on wetter sites, such as hardwood  swamps on mineral soils or mucks (3,37). The key appears to be  improving soil moisture conditions through the growing season  because the species is only moderately tolerant of flooding (14).  It is eliminated from sites inundated more than 25 percent of the  time (24). Accordingly, it is absent or rare on the wettest  sites, such as lower floodplain terraces, permanently inundated  areas, and swamps with peat soils.

    American hornbeam also grows, to a lesser extent, on mesic to  xeric sites (5,19). In Florida and Ontario the species occurs  more often on dry-mesic than on mesic or xeric sites. The  dry-mesic sites in Ontario have a higher soil moisture retaining  capacity than the others (35). In hilly terrain it is found most  frequently on north aspects but also grows on ridge tops and on  south aspects where subirrigation of the site improves soil  moisture (51).

    The upper altitudinal limit of American hornbeam is 910 m (3,000  ft) in the Great Smoky Mountains ' but it is much more common at  about 490 in (1,600 ft) (59).

    Concentrations of potassium, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus in  the foliage of the species are low in comparison to those of  other species (2). American hornbeam leaf litter, on the other  hand, has high concentrations of these nutrients in relation to  other species (57).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

The climate varies greatly from north to south in this species  habitat. Mean annual precipitation ranges from 710 mm. (28 in) in  Minnesota to 1570 mm (62 in) along the Gulf Coast. Most  precipitation occurs during the growing season, April through  September. Mean January temperatures range from -13° C (8°  F) to 16° C (60° F) and the mean July temperatures  range from 16° C (60° F) to 29° C (84° F).  Frost-free periods are from 80 to 320 days.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Dispersal

Establishment

American hornbeam begins to produce seeds at about 15 years and peaks at 25 to 50 years, probably ceasing at about 75 years. Large seed crops are produced at 3-5-year intervals. Seeds are mainly dispersed by birds. Seed establishment will occur on leaf litter in deep shade. Flooding, drought, damping off, proximity to a conspecific adult, and herbivory are important causes of mortality for first-year seedlings. Reproduction also may occur by sprouts from the root crown and by root sprouts, although the latter apparently is not common.

American hornbeam is best suited to establishment in bottomlands that have already been stabilized by pioneer species. It is shade-tolerant and persists in the understory of late seral and climax communities. Shade tolerance declines with age and American hornbeam is likely to become dominant, with other subcanopy species, at some sites after overstory removal.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Miscellaneous insects feed on the foliage, wood, and plant juices of Musclewood. These species include the caterpillars of Baileya ophthalmica (Eyed Baileya) and other moths, Agrilus ohioensis and other wood-boring beetles, Lygocoris carpini and other plant bugs, the aphid Macrosiphum carpinicolens, and several leafhoppers; Musclewood is a preferred host of the leafhoppers Eratoneura direpta, Eratoneura triangulata, and Erythridula modica. The Insect Table provides a more complete listing of these insect feeders. The nutlets, buds, or catkins of Musclewood are eaten by the Wood Duck, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and probably other birds. Among mammals, beavers use the wood as a source of food and construction materials, the Gray Squirrel and Fox Squirrel eat the nutlets, and rabbits browse on young seedlings of this tree. White-Tailed Deer occasionally browse on the leaves and twigs of Musclewood, but it is not preferred as a food plant. As a result of selective browsing, this small tree has proliferated in some areas of eastern United States (Kershaw, 2007; Sullivan, 1994). Some birds use Musclewood occasionally for nesting habitat; the Wood Thrush has been observed to build nests in its branches, while the Black-Capped Chickadee and Carolina Chickadee use small cavities in older trees as locations for their nests (Eastman, 1992).
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associated Forest Cover

American hornbeam is typically an understory species and only  rarely occurs in the overstory or dominates a stand. It is  present in the following forest cover types (Society of American  Foresters) (22): Northern Forest Region, Black Cherry-Maple (Type  28), Beech-Sugar Maple (Type 60); Central Forest Region, White  Oak-Black Oak-Northern Red Oak (Type 52), White Oak (Type 53),  Northern Red Oak (Type 55), River Birch-Sycamore (Type 61), Pin  Oak-Sweetgum (Type 65); Southern Forest Region, Swamp Chestnut  Oak-Cherrybark Oak (Type 91), Sweetgum-Yellow-Poplar (Type 87).

    American hombeam is found in a wide variety of forest communities  and with many tree species because its habitat frequently is an  ecotone in which species from wet and mesic sites intergrade. In  the North, it is a minor component of many different types,  infrequently becoming the first or second most abundant tree  species in the subcanopy layer (32). It is associated with  northern hardwoods and their wet site variants. Sugar maple (Acer  saccharum) and/or American beech (Fagus grandifolia) are  dominant in many situations but may be replaced by eastern  hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), yellow birch (Betula  alleghaniensis), red maple (Acer rubrum), American  elm (Ulmus americana), silver maple (Acer  saccharinum), and black ash (Fraxinus nigra) on  wetter sites.

    In the central portion of its range, American hornbeam also is a  minor component of stands. Species dominant in northern stands  also dominate here along with white (Quercus alba), black  (Q. Velutina), northern red (Q. rubra), scarlet  (Q. coccinea), pin (Q. palustris), and chinkapin  (Q. muehlenbergii) oak; bitternut hickory (Carya  cordiformis); black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica); sweetgum  (Liquidambar styraciflua); yellow-poplar (Liriodendron  tulipifera); river birch (Betula nigra); and basswood  (Tilia americana).

    The species attains its greatest prominence in southern stands,  yet remains a member of the understory. In a number of areas it  is the most numerous of all tree species in the stand (36,40). It  is found in southern mixed hardwood and loblolly pine (Pinus  taeda) forests. Overstory species that frequently dominate  these stands are sweetgum, water Quercus nigra), white,  laurel (Q. laurifolia), willow (Q. phellos), cherrybark  (Q. falcata var. pagodifolia), and swamp chestnut  (Q. prinus) oak, American beech, black tupelo, red maple,  loblolly pine, southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and  yellow-poplar.

    The species is also an important member of some nonforest  vegetative types in the Northeast. It is an early migrant and  forms pure stands in moist old fields (61) and grows in  persistent shrub communities in old pastures on hilltops and more  exposed hilltops (20).

    Understory tree species associated with American hornbeam  throughout much of its range include eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya  virginiana), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), witch-hazel  (Hamamelis virginiana), the serviceberries (Amelanchier  spp.), and speckled alder (Alnus rugosa). Northern  associates are striped (Acer pensylvanicum) and mountain  maple (A. spicatum). Red mulberry (Morus rubra), pawpaw  (Asimina triloba), and eastern redbud (Cercis  canadensis) are common associates from the Central States  southward. In the South, associated species include sourwood (Oxydendrum  arboreum), possumhaw (Ilex decidua), American holly  (Ilex opaca), winged elm (Ulmus alata), sweetbay  (Magnolia virginiana), water-elm (Planera aquatica),  parsley hawthorn (Crataegus marshallii), riverflat  hawthorn (C. opaca), common persimmon (Diospyros  virginiana), and Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus  caroliniana).

    Shrub species associated with American hornbeam throughout its  range include spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and southern  arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum). In the northern half of  its range, American hombeam is associated with mapleleaf viburnum  (Viburnum acerifolium), redberry elder (Sambucus  pubens), common winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and  alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). In the  southern half of its range it is associated with  devils-walkingstick (Aralia spinosa), beautyberry (Callicarpa  americana), Virginia-willow (Itea virginica), southern  bayberry (Myrica cerifera), sweetleaf (Symplocos  tinctoria), and tree sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Insect and disease damage is not a  serious problem with American hornbeam. The species is resistant  to frost damage; its succulent foliage can withstand temperatures  as low as -8.5° C (17° F) (1). The tree is very  windfirm. Recreational use in forested campgrounds disposes it to  increased disease infection, insect infestation and decline; it  is the tree least capable of withstanding such use of the 22  hardwood species evaluated (47).

    American hornbeam is susceptible to fire. Wildfires severe enough  to kill the hardwood component of white oak stands in Rhode  Island eliminated American hornbeam (10). Normally, the species  made up 6 percent of the understory stems. However, neither a  crown fire nor a ground fire affected the status of American  hornbeam in the ninth year after burning a loblolly pine stand in  North Carolina (42).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

The very hard, dense wood of American hornbeam rots very rapidly;
dying trees usually disappear within a decade [21].

American hornbeam is sometimes present as an undesirable species in
cut-over pine on terrace or terrace-equivalent sites. Burning in late
spring to early winter may be useful for controlling undesirable
hardwoods on these sites, but is effective only during a long dry
period. Fuels are too moist to achieve good fire spread otherwise [34].
  • 21. Kudish, Michael. 1992. Adirondack upland flora: an ecological perspective. Saranac, NY: The Chauncy Press. 320 p. [19376]
  • 34. Silker, T. H. 1961. Prescribed burning to control undesirable hardwoods in southern pine stands. Bulletin No. 51. Kirbyville, TX: Texas Forest Service. 44 p. [16898]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: prescribed fire

The Research Project Summary Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and
eastern white pine stand in Michigan
and the Research paper by Bowles and others 2007 provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of several plant species,
including American hornbeam, that was not available when this species review was written.

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: basal area, density, wildfire

In northern Alabama, prescribed fires in a 5- to 6-year-old hardwood
stand (established subsequent to clearcutting) resulted in an increase
in the total number of stems per acre 1 to 2 years after fire. Most of
the increase was attributed to multiple sprouting from existing hardwood
stems that were top-killed by the fire. American hornbeam was listed
with a group of "all others" which numbered 171 stems per acre on the
unburned plot. This group of species averaged 168 stems per acre, 26 of
which were American hornbeam, on burned plots that experienced three
different types of fires: (1) plots burned in spring with a strip
headfire; 72 percent of the area moderately burned, 8 percent lightly
burned or unburned, and 20 percent heavily burned, (2) plots burned in
fall by a slow fire uniformly covering the area, and (3) plots burned in
spring with a moderately intense fire over the entire sampling area
[26].

In North Carolina, a 35-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation
experienced a wildfire in 1931. When the stand was observed in 1940,
American hornbeam density and basal area were low but similar on three
types of plots: surface burn, crown burn, and unburned [29].
  • 26. McGee, Charles E. 1980. The effect of fire on species dominance in young upland hardwood stands. In: Proceedings, mid-south upland hardwood symposium for the practicing forester and land manager; [Date of conference unknown]
  • 29. Oosting, Henry J. 1944. The comparative effect of surface and crown fire on the composition of a loblolly pine community. Ecology. 25(1): 61-69. [9919]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the terms: hardwood, wildfire

American hornbeam is probably either top-killed or killed by most fires.
A wildfire severe enough to kill the hardwood component of a white oak
(Q. alba) stand in Rhode Island eliminated American hornbeam from the
stand. Prior to the fire, American hornbeam comprised 6 percent of the
stems [3].
  • 3. Apsley, David K.; Leopold, Donald J.; Parker, George R. 1985. Tree species response to release from domestic livestock grazing. Proceedings, Indiana Academy of Science. 94: 215-226. [23164]

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Post-fire Regeneration

Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: fire frequency, frequency, swamp, top-kill

American hornbeam is not resistant to fire damage due to its thin bark.
It probably sprouts after top-kill by fire. It occurs mostly in
communities that rarely experience fire.

Florida swamp and hammock communities in which American hornbeam occurs
are estimated as having a fire frequency on the order of one or two
fires per century [8]. Also in Florida, American hornbeam is one of a
number of hardwoods invading longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) communities
in the absence of fire. A community sampled 55 years after the last
recorded fire was dominated by swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii),
American hornbeam, live oak (Q. virginiana), water oak, sweetgum,
eastern hophornbeam, Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), and pignut
hickory (Carya glabra), with a few remaining large longleaf pine in the
overstory [14].
  • 8. Ewel, Katherine C. 1990. Swamps. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 281-322. [17392]
  • 14. Hartnett, David C.; Krofta, Douglas M. 1989. Fifty-five years of post-fire succession in a southern mixed hardwood forest. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 116(2): 107-113. [9153]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: climax

Facultative Seral Species

American hornbeam is tolerant of shade [21,27]. It persists in the
understory of late seral and climax communities. Shade tolerance is
greatest in American hornbeam seedlings and declines with age [27].
Curtis and McIntosh [5] rated the climax adaptation of American hornbeam
as 8 (10 is the maximum, usually assigned to species such as sugar maple
[Acer saccharum]). American hornbeam responds positively to overstory
removal. On certain southern sites, it is so aggressive that it
prevents larger species from regenerating after logging or natural
disturbance [27]. In minor streambottoms American hornbeam and other
tolerant subcanopy species are likely to capture a site once the main
canopy is removed [15]. In Connecticut, thinned northern red oak-black
oak-scarlet oak (Quercus rubra-Q. velutina-Q. coccinea) plots had a
higher proportion of American hornbeam and eastern hophornbeam than
unthinned plots [40].

In North Carolina, American hornbeam first appeared in old fields 12 to
18 years after abandonment, and appeared 25 to 40 years after
abandonment on old fields in New Jersey [27]. American hornbeam was
present on 28-, 30-, and 40-year-old old fields in western Tennessee.
It was not present on the 3- and 12-year-old sites [33].

Hupp [17] classes American hornbeam with species that do not normally
invade degraded or newly aggrading substrates (in relation to stream
channelization projects) but are tolerant of bottomland conditions and
have seed that is long-lived (up to 2 years) and dispersed by wind or
water. These species are best suited to establish in bottomlands that
have already been stabilized by pioneer species, and occur in
abundance on undisturbed sites or on sites that are in the later
stages of recovery from channelization [17].

American hornbeam was present in the understory of a mixed hardwood
bottomland forest dominated by water oak (Q. nigra), sweetgum,
cherrybark oak (Q. falcata var. pagodifolia), and loblolly pine (Pinus
taeda). American hornbeam seedlings and saplings dominated the
reproduction layers in this forest [18].

In Florida, American hornbeam tends to capture gaps early, but is
replaced by slower-growing and longer-lived evergreen species such as
American holly and common sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria) [30].
  • 15. Hodges, John D.; Switzer, George L. 1979. Some aspects of the ecology of southern bottomland hardwoods. In: North America's forests: gateway to opportunity: Proceedings, 1978 joint convention of the Society of American Foresters and the Canadian Institute of Forestry. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 360-365. [10028]
  • 5. Curtis, J. T.; McIntosh, R. P. 1951. An upland forest continuum in the prairie-forest border region of Wisconsin. Ecology. 32: 476-496. [6927]
  • 17. Hupp, Cliff R. 1992. Riparian vegetation recovery patterns following stream channelization: a geomorphic perspective. Ecology. 73(4): 1209-1226. [19499]
  • 18. Jones, Robert H.; Sharitz, Rebecca R. 1991. Dynamics of advance regeneration in four South Carolina bottomland hardwood forests. In: Coleman, Sandra S.; Neary, Daniel G., compilers. Proceedings, 6th biennial southern silvicultural research conference: Vol. II; 1990 October 30 - November 1; Memphis, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-70. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 567-578. [17501]
  • 21. Kudish, Michael. 1992. Adirondack upland flora: an ecological perspective. Saranac, NY: The Chauncy Press. 320 p. [19376]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 30. Platt, William J.; Schwartz, Mark W. 1990. Temperate hardwood forests. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 194-229. [17390]
  • 33. Shankman, David. 1990. Forest regeneration on abandoned agricultural fields in western Tennessee. Southeastern Geographer. 30(1): 36-47. [17640]
  • 40. Ward, Jeffrey S. 1992. Response of woody regeneration to thinning mature upland oak stands in Connecticut, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 49(3-4): 219-231. [19264]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: competition, natural

The minimum seed-bearing age of American hornbeam is 15 years [32].
Production is greatest at 25 to 50 years and probably ceases at about 75
years [6]. Large seed crops are produced at 3- to 5-year intervals
[27,32]. Seeds are are mainly dispersed by birds, and are wind blown
only a short distance [6,27]. Matlack [25] estimated the lateral
movement of American hornbeam diaspores (nut plus bracts) in a 6 mile
per hour (10 km/hr) breeze as 64 feet (19.4 m). Seed dormancy may be
broken by stratification. Stratification at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4
deg C) for 18 weeks, stratification plus gibberellic acid, and
scarification of the seedcoat plus gibberellic acid all improve
germination [6,27]. The optimum natural seedbed for American hornbeam
is continuously moist, rich, loamy soil protected from extreme
atmospheric changes [6]. American hornbeam will also establish on leaf
litter seedbeds in deep shade, even when competition is present [27].
Germination occurs from April to June in the spring following seed
maturity [6].

In eastern Texas, seedling survival for American hornbeam is low the
first year, but increases substantially thereafter. Flooding,
drought, damping off, proximity to a conspecific adult, and herbivory
were important causes of first year mortality. Mortality tends to be
concentrated in short periods associated with particular events
(flooding, for example). Periods of reduced flooding allowed American
hornbeam seedlings to increase in importance [36].

Regeneration of American hornbeam after a seed-tree harvest in Arkansas
consisted of new seedlings, advance reproduction, stump sprouts, and
root sprouts [27].
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 25. Matlack, Glenn R. 1987. Diaspore size, shape, and fall behavior in wind-dispersed plant species. American Journal of Botany. 74(8): 1150-1160. [28]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 32. Rudolf, Paul O.; Phipps, Howard. 1974. Carpinus L. horbeam. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 266-268. [7570]
  • 36. Streng, Donna R.; Glitzenstein, Jeff S.; Harcombe, P. A. 1989. Woody seedling dynamics in an east Texas floodplain forest. Ecological Monographs. 59(2): 177-204. [6894]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Reaction to Competition

American horn beam is a very  shade-tolerant species, capable of persisting in the understories  of late seral and climax communities. Tolerance is greatest among  seedlings and declines as the trees age, requiring an opening in  the canopy for the species to reach maturity. It is one of a few  species in both northern and southern forests whose abundant  reproduction assures its replacement in stands across a wide  spectrum of sites (27,35). This is evidenced by an  inverse-J-shaped diameter distribution for the species in many  stands. On certain southern sites the species is so aggressive  that it will replace overstory species lost through logging or  catastrophe and prevent larger species from reproducing (17,30).

    Ecologists consider American hombeam a member of near-climax to  climax communities. In Wisconsin where climax species are  assigned a climax adaptation number of 10, American hombeam is  rated 7 and 8 on uplands and 8 and 9 on lowlands for the northern  and southern parts of the State, respectively (16). Similarly the  species is rated 7 in New Jersey (11). It is ranked fifth highest  among 79 Central States species on the basis of a multivariate  analysis of various species characteristics that favor  establishment and growth under climax forest conditions (58).

    American hornbeam first appeared in seral communities developing  on old fields about 12 to 18 years after the sites were abandoned  in North Carolina (41) and about 25 to 40 years after the sites  were sapling-sizeabandoned in New Jersey (26). It enters these  communities as a minor component when a sapling-size tree-shrub  community is dominant. In much older stands in North Carolina it  is more abundant. In maturing second-growth hardwood stands in  Connecticut, hornbeam had initially been an important species,  the most abundant one, in fact, on moist sites. But, over a  50-year period it declined in density, basal area, and ingrowth,  eventually becoming a minor component of all stands (53).

    In forests managed for commercial timber production, American  hornbeam is considered a weed and is discriminated against in  stand improvement. Although hornbeam is considered difficult to  kill, herbicides have been effective. Mistblowing a mixture of  2,4-D and 2,4,5-T and injecting 2,4-D, Tordon 101, and Tordon 144  have killed 90 percent or more of the tops (43,44). Prescribed  burning is used to control the understory hardwoods, including  American hornbeam, that become established under southern pines.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Rooting Habit

No information available.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

American hornbeam flowers from March 20 to May 6 in the Southeast, and
from April to May in the northern parts of its range, usually before the
leaves are fully grown [27]. The fruits ripen from August to October in
the same season [6,27,39].
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 39. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

No information available.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Seedling Development

The types of seedbeds and  environments favorable to establishment under natural conditions  has to be surmised from nursery experience and the habitat  preference of established plants. The optimum nursery seedbed has  soils that are rich, loamy, and continuously moist and the site  is free of extreme environmental change (48). This approximates  natural conditions where the species is most frequently found.  Abundant natural reproduction in undisturbed forests indicates  the species ability to become established on leaf litter seedbeds  under deep shade and with competition from other species (12,50).  The species also becomes established on sites that are wetter and  drier than optimum, as well as on open sites.

    American hornbeam responds well to various degrees of overstory  removal in regeneration harvests. In two hardwood seed-tree  harvest areas in southeastern Arkansas, the proportion of  American hornbeam in the reproduction increased during the 18  years after cutting (30). Regeneration of the species consisted  of advance reproduction, new seedlings, stump sprouts, and root  suckers. Sprouts grew from 1.2 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 ft) in the first  year. By the 18th year, American hornbeam was becoming  subordinate in diameter to sweetgum and the red oaks. The species  also responded well to release after clearcutting  hemlock-hardwoods in southern New England (34). However, density  and basal area stocking of American hornbeam in relation to other  species were unaffected after a partial harvest of a  pine-hardwood stand in Louisiana (6).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

Source: Silvics of North America

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Seed Production and Dissemination

The fruit is an ovoid,  ribbed, 5 to 8 mm (0.2 to 0.3 in) long nutlet. It matures in one  season, changing from green to light-greenish-brown or brown on  maturity. The nutlet is borne at the base of a distinctive  three-lobed involucre, about 2.5 cm (I in) long; these occur in  clusters 5 to 10 cm. (2 to 4 in) long. The averages reported for  nutlets per kilogram range from 66,000 to 88,000 (30,000 to  40,000/lb), while the range is between 33,000 and 143,000 (15,000  and 65,000/lb) (48,62). Large seed crops occur at 3- to 5-year  intervals. Seeds are primarily dispersed by birds but are also  dispersed short distances by wind. Germination is epigeal.  Germination capacity of stratified seed is low-usually less than  60 percent and occasionally as low as 1 to 5 percent-but 100  percent germination was obtained using immature green seed (54).  Dormancy occurs in both the embryo and endosperm (48).  Stratification at 4° C (40° F) for 18 weeks,  stratification plus gibberellic acid treatment, and scarification  of the seed coat plus gibberellic acid treatment all improve  germination (9).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

The species is monoecious, with  male and female catkins borne separately on the same tree and  first appearing in the spring concurrently with leaf-out. Catkins  are green to brown with red on the scales. Staminate catkins are  pendant from lateral, short branches and 3 to 4 cm (1.25 to 1.5  in) long. Pollen matures and is wind disseminated in the spring  (63). Pistillate catkins are 13 to 19 mm. (0.5 to 0.75 1) long  and occur in spikelike groups at the terminus of leafy shoots.  Flowering occurs between March 20 and May 6 in the Southeast and  during April through May in the North.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

American hornbeam is unsuited for  commercial timber production because it is usually small,  twisted, and multi-stemmed. In undisturbed stands, from 70 to 93  percent of the American hornbeam. were saplings less than 13 cm  (5 in) d.b.h., and less than 1 percent were 25 cm (10 in) d.b.h.  or larger (21,40), which is a common minimum diameter for saw  logs. Heights of mature individuals generally range from 5 to 6 m  (15 to 20 ft) in Canada and from 8 to 11 m (25 to 35 ft) in the  South. The largest individual was found in New York. It has a  diameter of 70 cm (27 in), a height of 20 m (65 ft), and a crown  spread of 20 m (66 ft) (29).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

An American hornbeam, variety virginiana, is recognized by some  authorities but its validity is questionable. It replaces the  typical form in the northern half of the species range with some  overlapping in the Central States. The two forms are separated by  features of the bract of the fruiting

    ament and the leaves, but in Ohio the two characteristics do not  necessarily vary at the same time, resulting in confusion (8).

    American hornbeam exhibits clines (from north to south) in several  physiological and morphological properties. Fruit weights  increase northward (62); the length of cold preconditioning  required for bud bursting varies latitudinally (56), and the  specific gravity of the wood is higher for trees growing north of  latitude 36°N. than for trees growing at latitudes 31°  to 36° N. (55).

    The species has eight pairs of chromosomes (63).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Carpinus caroliniana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the terms: cover, tree

American hornbeam is usually regarded as a weed tree because of its
small size and poor form [6,27]. In eastern hardwoods, American
hornbeam may increase in dominance on a stand under single tree
selection management [23]. Intensive site preparation is needed to
regenerate intolerant soft hardwoods (eastern cottonwood [Populus
deltoides], sycamore [Platanus occidentalis], sweetgum [Liquidambar
styraciflua], and yellow-poplar [Liriodendron tulipifera]) in the
presence of American hornbeam [15]. American hornbeam initially
dominated a clearcut site but was eventually overtopped by larger
species [2]. American hornbeam may be controlled by 2,4,5-T [6].

Overstory cover is important for maintenance of American hornbeam.
Cutting practices should leave some canopy trees for shade [6].
American hornbeam seedlings grown in full sun responded positively to
increased nutrients (applied at levels to mimic the range of values for
agricultural runoff and sewage sludge) [38].

Insects and diseases are not usually serious problems for American
hornbeam [27].
  • 15. Hodges, John D.; Switzer, George L. 1979. Some aspects of the ecology of southern bottomland hardwoods. In: North America's forests: gateway to opportunity: Proceedings, 1978 joint convention of the Society of American Foresters and the Canadian Institute of Forestry. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 360-365. [10028]
  • 2. Bowling, Dale R.; Kellison, R. C. 1983. Bottomland hardwood stand development following clearcutting. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 7: 110-116. [23165]
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 23. Marquis, David A.; Johnson, Robert L. 1989. Silviculture of eastern hardwoods. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 9-15. [10242]
  • 27. Metzger, F. T. 1990. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. American hornbeam. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 179-185. [21818]
  • 38. Vaitkus, Milda R.; Ciravolo, Thomas G.; McLeod, Kenneth W.; [and others]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Because of its thin bark, American hornbeam is probably either top-killed or completely killed by most fires. It occurs mostly in communities that rarely experience fire. It sprouts after top-kill by fire and repeated fires at a closely spaced interval will quickly eliminate the species. The wood rots very rapidly and dying trees usually disappear naturally within a decade.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: Fuelwood, Other fuel

Comments: "OTHER FUEL" = CHARCOAL

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Other uses and values

American hornbeam nuts are edible but small and therefore are seldom
collected for food [6]. The leaves of American hornbeam have been used
as an astringent [19].
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 19. Krochmal, Arnold; Krochmal, Connie. 1982. Uncultivated nuts of the United States. Agriculture Information Bulletin 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 89 p. [1377]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

American hornbeam is of secondary importance to wildlife. Ruffed
grouse, ring-necked pheasant, and northern bobwhite eat small quantities
of the seeds, buds, and catkins. Seeds are consumed by yellow-rumped
warbler [24]. The seeds are also consumed by ducks, but usually only
when acorn production is limited [28]. Seeds, bark, and wood are eaten
by rabbits, beaver, fox squirrel, and eastern gray squirrel.
White-tailed deer browse the twigs and foliage [24]. American hornbeam
has been reported in wild turkey crops from New York and Pennsylvania [6].
  • 24. Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. 1951. American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 500 p. [4021]
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]
  • 28. Moorhead, David J.; Hodges, John D.; Reinecke, Kenneth J. 1991. Silvicultural options for waterfowl management in bottomland hardwood stands and greentree reservoirs. In: Coleman, Sandra S.; Neary, Daniel G., compilers. Proceedings, 6th biennial southern silvicultural research conference: Volume 2; 1990 October 30 - November 1; Memphis, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-70. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 710-721. [17507]

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Wood Products Value

American hornbeam wood is very hard, heavy, and close-grained. It is
very difficult to work and is used only for tool handles, mallets, and
golf club heads [4,6,7].
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 4. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 6. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]

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Cultivation

The preference is partial sun to moderate shade, moist well-drained conditions, and fertile loamy soil with decaying organic matter. Musclewood grows slowly; it produces nutlets in as little as 15 years and may live up to 100 years.
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Special Uses

American hornbeam is an important food of gray squirrels in  southern bottom-land hardwoods; otherwise it is of secondary  importance to wildlife (25). Seeds, buds, or catkins are eaten by  a number of songbirds, ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasants,  bobwhite, turkey, and fox and gray squirrels. Leaves, twigs, and  larger stems are consumed by cottontails, beaver, and  white-tailed deer (18,25).

    Reproduction is browsed by white-tailed deer throughout the  species range but it is not a preferred food (7,28). The species  is heavily used by beaver because it is readily available in  typical beaver habitat (38).

    The orange and scarlet coloration in the fall make this an  attractive ornamental tree. It is not widely used, however,  because it is difficult to transplant and does not do well on  exposed sites (60).

    The wood of American hornbeam is not important in commerce because  the tree is too small, but its tough, dense, and close-grained  wood is used for tool handles, levers, wedges, and mallets.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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F. T. Metzger

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Uses

The wood of Carpinus is of minor economic importance because of the small size of the trees. It is whitish, extremely hard, and heavy and has been used for making mallet heads, tool handles, levers, and other small, hard, wooden objects. The wood is not subject to cracking or splitting and was used by American pioneers for bowls and dishes.

American hornbeam is planted in landscapes and naturalized areas. It prefers deep, fertile, moist, acidic soil and grows best in partial shade, but will

grow in full sun. Its chief liabilities in cultivation are a relatively slow growth rate and difficulty in transplantation. It is not drought-tolerant.

Seeds, buds, or catkins are eaten by a number of songbirds, ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, bobwhite, turkey, fox, and gray squirrels. Cottontails, beaver, and white-tailed deer eat the leaves, twigs, and larger stems. Beaver heavily uses American hornbeam, because it is readily available in typical beaver habitat.

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Wikipedia

Carpinus caroliniana

Bark

Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) is a small hardwood tree in the genus Carpinus. American hornbeam is also known as blue-beech, ironwood, and musclewood. It is native to eastern North America, from Minnesota and southern Ontario east to Maine, and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It also grows in Canada (southwest Quebec and southeast Ontario), Mexico (central and southern), Guatemala, and western Honduras.[1]

It is a small tree reaching heights of 10–15 m, rarely 20 m, and often has a fluted and crooked trunk. The bark is smooth and greenish-grey, becoming shallowly fissured in old trees. The leaves are alternate, 3–12 cm long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive corrugated texture, and a serrated margin. The male and female catkins appear in spring at the same time as the leaves. The fruit is a small 7–8 mm long nut, partially surrounded by a three- to seven-pointed leafy involucre 2–3 cm long; it matures in autumn. The seeds often do not germinate till the spring of the second year after maturating.

There are two subspecies, which intergrade extensively where they meet:

It is a shade-loving tree, which prefers moderate soil fertility and moisture. It has a shallow, wide-spreading root system. The wood is heavy and hard, and is used for tool handles, longbows, walking sticks, walking canes and golf clubs. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, for example the Io moth (Automeris io).

Fruit

Description[edit]

Common along the borders of streams and swamps, loves a deep moist soil. Varies from shrub to small tree, and ranges throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Bark: On old trees near the base, furrowed. Young trees and branches smooth, dark bluish gray, sometimes furrowed, light and dark gray. Branchlets at first pale green, changing to reddish brown, ultimately dull gray.
  • Wood: Light brown, sapwood nearly white; heavy, hard, close-grained, very strong. Used for levers, handles of tools. Sp. gr., 0.7286; weight 45.41 lbs.
  • Winter buds: Ovate, acute, chestnut brown, one-eighth of an inch long. Inner scales enlarge when spring growth begins. No terminal bud is formed.
  • Leaves: Alternate, two to four inches long, ovate-oblong, rounded, wedge-shaped, or rarely subcordate and often unequal at base, sharply and doubly serrate, acute or acuminate. They come out of the bud pale bronze green and hairy; when full grown they are dull deep green above, paler beneath; feather-veined, midrib and veins very prominent on under side. In autumn bright red, deep scarlet and orange. Petioles short, slender, hairy. Stipules caducous.
  • Flowers: April. Monœcious, apetalous, the staminate naked in pendulous aments. The staminate ament buds are axillary and form in the autumn and during the winter resemble leaf-buds, only twice as large; these aments begin to lengthen very early in the spring, when full grown are about one and one-half inches long. The staminate flower is composed of three to twenty stamens crowded on a hairy torus, adnate to the base of a broadly ovate, acute boot-shaped scale, green below the middle, bright red at apex. The pistillate aments are one-half to three-fourths of an inch long with ovate, acute, hairy, green scales and bright scarlet styles.
  • Fruit: Clusters of involucres, hanging from the ends of leafy branches. Each involucre slightly incloses a small oval nut. The involucres are short stalked, usually three-lobed, though one lobe is often wanting; halberd-shaped, coarsely serrate on one margin, or entire.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Silvics of North America, Vol.2 (USDA Forest Service)". 
  2. ^ Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 319–322. 
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Notes

Comments

Carpinus caroliniana consists of two rather well-marked geographical races, treated here as subspecies. These hybridize or intergrade in a band extending from Long Island along the Atlantic coast through coastal Virginia and North Carolina, and then westward in northern South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Plants with intermediate features are also found throughout the highlands of Missouri and Arkansas. J. J. Furlow (1987b) has described the variation of this complex in detail. 

 Native Americans used Carpinus caroliniana medicinally to treat flux, navel yellowness, cloudy urine, Italian itch, consumption, diarrhea, and constipation, as an astringent, a tonic, and a wash, and to facilitate childbirth (D. E. Moerman 1986; no subspecies specified).

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

American hornbeam
blue-beech
ironwood
muscletree
water-beech

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The currently accepted scientific name for American hornbeam is Carpinus
caroliniana Walt. (Betulaceae) [3,11,13,22]. Infrataxa are [11]:

Carpinus caroliniana ssp. caroliniana
Carpinus caroliniana ssp. virginiana (Marshall) Furlow
  • 22. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
  • 3. Apsley, David K.; Leopold, Donald J.; Parker, George R. 1985. Tree species response to release from domestic livestock grazing. Proceedings, Indiana Academy of Science. 94: 215-226. [23164]
  • 13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 11. Furlow, John J. 1987. The Carpinus caroliniana complex in North America. II. Systematics. Systematic Botany. 12(3): 416-434. [20136]

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