• Central Park Conservancy Logo

American Hornbeam

American Hornbeam Tree
The American hornbeam is nicknamed "ironwood" because of the strength of its wood. It is also referred to as "musclewood" because of the trunk's resemblance to muscles. American hornbeam and European hornbeam were both planted early on in the Park’s creation. The older, larger hornbeams tend to be European, while only American hornbeam are now planted in Central Park. Distinguishing between the two can be difficult and involves comparing bud sizes and fruit bracts, though the task becomes easier once fall arrives – keep an eye out for the American horbeam’s striking yellow-orange foliage, a wonderful feature lacking in the European hornbeam.

Common Name: American Hornbeam

Scientific Name: Carpinus caroliniana

Origin: North America

Family: Betulaceae

Size: 20 - 30' tall, as wide or wider

Form: Multi-stemmed, wide spreading, flat-topped crown

Culture: Transplants from containers and tolerates pruning; prefers deep, fertile, moist, acidic soil; full sun to shade


2.5" long, 5" wide, alternate arrangement, yellow-orange in fall


Monoecious (male and female organs), 4" long female flowers attached to a three-winged bract (irregular leaves); bloom in April


1" long nutlet subtended by a three-winged bract (irregular leaves); numerous nutlets held together in pendulous, chain-like clusters; color changes from green to brown, September through October


Smooth, gray, fluted base, vertical ridges, slender, hairy stems