Often confused with beech at first sight, Hornbeam is a good substitute on wet or shady sites where Beech will not do well. It makes a medium-sized specimen tree on heavy clay soil in parklands and gardens where other trees will not thrive, and it is an excellent hedge, retaining its leaves over winter in the same way as Beech. It is also good for coppicing and pollarding, and along with Lime, it is most often used for making pleached hedges.
Site and soil
Hornbeam will do well on most soils including wet clays. It is also tolerant of shade and frost pockets, and because the timber is so strong, it withstands wind well without damage to the branches.
Height and spread
Below are the approximate stages of growth, assuming sited in suitable conditions for this species;
After 10 years: 6m x 4m After 20 years: 11m x 6m
Leaf and bark
The leaves are ovate and sharply toothed, with prominent veins. They are between 7 – 12 cm long, mid green, turning yellow and orange before leaf fall in autumn. The leaves are retained over winter on hedging. The bark is grey and fluted, often twisted with age.
Flower, seed and fruit
The yellowish female catkins open in clusters in March and are followed by racemes of green winged fruits, which ripen to brown.
Hornbeam makes an elegant pyramidal, later rounded, specimen tree for parkland, woodland and larger gardens. It coppices well, and in the past older trees were pollarded. It makes a good hedge, retaining its dead leaves over winter, and is also used for making flat pleached hedges where each plant is given a good spacing and the branches are trained out horizontally on each side at regular intervals.
The wood is very hard and is used for butcher’s blocks, mallets, gun stocks, mill cogs and piano hammers.
Insects are attracted to the catkins in spring and several species of moth larvae feed on its leaves. Insects shelter in the crevices of the bark, providing food for birds.
The main reasons for buying protection is to protect the plants against:
When it comes to deciding what protection to choose the golden rule is to choose the product dependent on which pest you are protecting against. The below will help you in deciding what height of protection you will need.
Vole, Mice 20cm
Roe Deer, Muntjac 1.20m
Fallow Deer 1.50m
Pest & Minimum Protection Height
Protection Type Where more than one size is listed, the wider diameter protection is recommended for taller, bushier plants.
Support Required Taller support is recommended for use in sandier, lighter soils and wider/stronger support should be used at exposed sites.