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American Hornbeam

The American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) is a small- to medium-sized hardwood shade tree that can thrive in a range of environments. It has a pleasant form, with one or more thick main trunks and a symmetrical, dense, ovate crown. Dark green summer foliage emerges in the spring with a reddish-purple hue and turns yellow to red-orange in autumn. This tree is also referred to as a Musclewood, Muscle Beech, or Blue Beech because of its smooth blue-gray bark on its trunk and branches resembling muscle tissue. Its elegant form and interesting bark make it an attractive spectacle in the winter. 

The American Hornbeam is native to eastern North America. It is common in its native range but not abundant. Early American pioneers used the wood of this tree to make tools and bowls but it is not produced commercially due to the tree’s smaller size. It is often found in the wild along stream or river banks but it can also do well in drier conditions. This makes it a great choice for a garden tree or shade tree in a rural or urban environment, its tasteful form and fall color being able to fit in well with most landscapes. Can grow in full or partial sun and prefers moist, well-drained soils. 


Container Size

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Trunk Caliper

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Growing Zones

zones 3-9

Mature Height

25-35 feet

Mature Width

20-35 feet