Hornbeam Carpinus betulus
Although the Hornbeam is abundant in the south and east of England, it is probably the least known common tree. The wood is too hard for general timber uses but is sometimes used to make musical instruments.
Conservation status in Norfolk
Although the hornbeam is not its self a species of conservation concern, Norfolk has targets with the aim of maintaining the current extent of lowland mixed deciduous woodland, expanding it where appropriate and encouraging a balance of appropriate management regimes. The cessation of traditional management practices such as coppicing has lead to a reduction in structural diversity within many types of woodland. Modern agricultural practices have led to simplification of landscapes and greater ecological isolation of woods through removal of hedgerows, isolated trees and through the intensive cultivation right up to woodland boundaries.
How to help
Planting any native deciduous tree is a great thing to do. You can also sponsor a tree, this makes a great present for any one interested in conserving British wildlife.
Information on the Hornbeam
How to recognise
There are 30-40 species of hornbeam however only two species occur in Europe. The European hornbeam is a small to medium sized tree, typically 10-20 m tall but occasionally reaching 30 m.
The bark is extremely distinctive, it is smooth and grey, while the leaves are alternate have toothed margins and noticeable parallel veins, and typically vary from 3-10 cm in length. Both male and female catkins are rather short and green, they are on separate catkins but grow on the same tree (monoecious). Fruits form in clusters, each one on a 3-lobed wing these are extremely distinctive and known as nutlets. The asymmetry of the seedwing makes it spin as it falls, improving wind dispersal.
Where to see
Hornbeam coppice forms one of the major woodland types on the boulder clays of South Norfolk. Virtually all ancient coppiced woods in the Garboldisham-Norwich-Yarmouth triangle contain large areas of hornbeam. Good places to see the hornbeam are East Wood, Denton, (TM2987) Little Wood, Hempnall (TM2594), HedenhamWood (TM3194), Westward at Necton Wood, Necton (TF9010), and Northwards to Templewood, Northrepps (TG2538). NWT Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood is one of Norfolks few remaining ancient woodlands (TM143978), a short distance south-east from Wymondham and home to white admiral butterflies, as well as hornbeams, ash and oaks.
When to see
Anytime of year is good to see a hornbeam, whether it be in spring when catkins are hanging from the tree, in mid summer when the full shape of the rounded crown can be appreciated, in autumn when the leaves are golden orange, or in winter when the steeply rising branches can bee seen and the deeply fluted boles of the silver-grey smooth bark.
Did you know?
The name hornbeam comes from its tough wood, ‘horn’ meaning hard and ‘beam’ meaning a tree in old English. As the hornbeam is such a tough wood it is used for making butchers blocks, mallets, balls, and skittles. Before steal became cheap it was used to make spokes and cogwheels
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