When Is A Hornbeam Not A Hornbeam

hop hornbeam fruiting bodies

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.

Dried hop hornbeam fruiting bodies

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..


  1. Tamara says:

    Such a lightweight, wonderfully patterned thing the cluster is, as I said when you brought it home earlier this week. Interesting facts here about how tough the wood of the Hornbeam is, thanks for that. 🍃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nest time, we can look at the trunk close up – it just shouts ‘strong’ and ‘tough’ 🙂


      1. Tamara says:

        Sounds like a great idea! 🤩

        Liked by 1 person

  2. According to Virginia Tech Dendrology (https://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=62) what you photographed is indeed the same as my North American Hop-hornbeam (athough as I was taught, it’s called Ironwood) and is used as trailer decking for hauling heavy construction equipment. You and I have talked about this tree before, not sure if I ever did send you any recent pics?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. P.S. the Virginia Tech article includes links to at least THREE very similar species…. (Yours, mine and ours? lol)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks – I got the photos. Interestingly in the link you shared, the tree is named hophornbeam – all one word.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You got it, good! (So glad I finally sent it – eyes rolling)
        And re pronunciation, well it is, as pronounced – all smooshed together, sortof like WorcestershireSauce – and why I like to write it as HopHornBeam.

        Liked by 1 person

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