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Native Plant of the Week: American Hornbeam

Family: Betulaceae


Name: Carpinus caroliniana


Bloom Time: March-May


Flower: Golden yellow catkins


Fruit: Nutlet


Fruit Harvest Time: Fall


Soil Condition: Moist, occasionally wet, handles a good amount of drought, well drained


Light: Partial shade to full shade


Size: 20-30' tall by 20-35' wide


Native Range: Eastern United States including Long Island


Zone: 3-9


The American hornbeam is a spectacular tree for shady spaces and an excellent tree for wildlife habitat and food. Golden yellow catkins in the spring become edible nutlets in the fall. It is monoecious (male and female flowers on the same plant) so no need for a partner. The fall color is lovely orange and burgundy. It is a slow grower putting on about twelve inches of growth per year.


Photo (KMS Native Plants: foliage


Maintenance: Almost no maintenance. It will need deep watering once a week during drought conditions. It tolerates drought but does not want to be consistently dry. It also performs well as a living fence. Of course, then it will need regular pruning.


Benefits: Host plant to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, and Striped Hairstreak butterflies. Nectar source. Excellent wildlife food source. Moderately deer resistant. Black walnut tolerant. Resistant to urban conditions and wind.


Fun Facts: European settlers used wood for bowls and dishes, ox yokes, and tool handles.


Companion Plants: Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel), Lindera benzoin (spicebush), Cornus florida (common dogwood), Carex pensylvanica (oak sedge)


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