Hornbeam are in the Carpinus genus in the birch family. But then there are other ‘hornbeams’ that are not hornbeams at all but simply have aspects of their growth that looks like hornbeams.
For example, the Hop hornbeam, which is Ostrya carpinifolia, is called that because the leaves look like Hornbeam leaves. The clusters of seeds hang in little pouches that are squashy and soft. Just press ever so gently and feel the way they are like little inflated balloons. They look like hops, hence the name.
I photographed this seed cluster hanging on the tree, on 14 June this year, so my iPhone tells me.
Then a couple of days ago I passed the tree and found a cluster of seeds on the ground, still intact. I brought the cluster home and photographed it with a little Canon compact camera.
Talking About ‘Real’ Hornbeams
We have hornbeams – Carpinus betulus – here in the UK, There’s an American ‘version’ Carpinus Caroliniana, and about thirty others from all around the globe in the Northern Hemisphere.
Hornbeam wood is very hard. The trunks even look hard. They are almost sinewy, with bark tight against the tree.
When I was young and lived in the countryside without much money, I saved on firewood by buying offcuts about four feet long and about ten inches across – the outer part of the trunks of hornbeams, with the bark still on.
I met my match with them. It was impossible to crack them with an axe. The axe just bounced off them and I had to saw them into short lengths..