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American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) Research Paper


Carpinus caroliniana is a medium sized tree whose genus is carpinus. It is a member of the betulaceae family. Its usual height is between 20 and 30 feet but it can grow up to 40 feet. Its common names include ironwood, blue beech, water beech, American hornbeam, musclewood, and muscle beech. It is native to the eastern United States of America (Furlow 1).

It is a slow-growing hardwood tree. This paper will discuss carpinus caroliniana in detail. It will begin with a brief description of the subspecies followed by a section on unique plant characteristics. It will end in a section on growth characteristics and the available cultivars.

There are two subspecies of the tree; subspecies caroliniana and subspecies virginiana. They are classified based on geographical location and morphology. The caroliniana subspecies is native to southern Atlantic region, Gulf of Mexico plains, and some parts of Mississippi. It has small narrow oval leaves. The subspecies virginiana is mainly found in forested areas of northeastern North America. It has large long oval leaves. However, hybrid trees exist in areas where the two subspecies overlap.

It has a wide cone shaped canopy (Keeler 319). Its crown tends to be thick and irregular. However, it can be pruned to get a more regular shape. Its crown characteristics are dependent on the amount of shading it is exposed to. When it grows under a shade, it tends to have a less dense crown. It has slender reddish brown hairy twigs. Its leaves are either ovate or oblong. The leaves have double serrated margins and are between 3 and 12 centimeters in length.

The underside of the leaf is hairy while the top surface is smooth and may bear visible dark glands. In the fall, the leaves turn to rich shades of orange, yellow, and red. Its stem has a tendency to branch extensively. Carpinus caroliniana is covered by a smooth bark with muscle-like ridges. Its common name is derived from this appearance. The flowers of the American hornbeam are inconspicuous.

The flowers emerge from small catkins. Both staminate and pistilate flowers are found on the same plant. However, the male flowers are slightly larger than the female flowers. The fruit of this species is inconspicuous. The fruits are small nuts held in place by leaf-like bracts. The bracts coalesce together to form pendulous clusters that hang from the twigs. As they ripen, they turn from green to brown.

Carpinus caroliniana does well in acidic soils. It can tolerate a lot of moisture. It is frequently found in wetlands and along riverbanks. It is often referred to as a flood resistant plant. It can also flourish in areas with little soil moisture. However, it cannot tolerate drought. It is also less tolerant to brackish habitats. It does not thrive in alkaline soils.

The American hornbeam is difficult to transplant. For this reason, it is better to grow seedlings in bags in order to reduce transplanting shock. Once it has been successfully transplanted, other management practices like pruning may be initiated. However, pruning should be delayed until the plant is fully established.

It can withstand frequent pruning. It matures in about 15 to 20 years. After maturity, it continues to produce seeds for about 50 years. In the wild, the seedlings establish well in the forest floor where humus is abundant. It can be grown in shaded areas in naturalized environments.

The American hornbeam has limited economic viability owing to its small size. Its wood has been used to make a variety of items. It is commonly used to make tool handles and golf clubs. It may also be used to make wooden hammers (mallets). It has also been used in the past to make utensils like bowls.

These uses rely on the fact that its wood is hard and does not easily crack or break. However, it is also planted in landscapes, lawns, hedges, and parks. It can be grown in shaded areas since it is shade tolerant (Gilman and Dennis 3). It may be used as a specimen tree owing to its showy characteristics. It is also frequently planted in naturalized areas. Its economic uses are limited. It cannot be harvested for wood since it is a small tree.

It is relatively resistant to diseases and pests. Some problems that have been reported include leaf spots, blight, and cankers. However, these rare problems can be prevented using good management practices. Its seeds attract a number of birds that feed on them. However, this is not considered a problem because the birds aid in seed dispersal. It is not classified as an invasive species. This means that it does not present a threat to the ecosystem in areas other than its native habitat.

The cultivars of carpinus caroliniana are not easily accessible. This is because it is slow growing. It is also difficult to transplant. Its narrow ecological zone may also have an effect on availability of cultivars. Some cultivars that have been planted with considerable success include palisade, fire spire, and pyramidalis.

However, it is recommended that cultivars be sourced through local extension offices. It is important to select a cultivar that is well adapted to local conditions. Homeowners do not commonly grow the American hornbeam. In general, it is not a widely cultivated plant making it suitable for use as a specimen tree (Niemiera 1).

This paper discussed carpinus caroliniana in detail. Carpinus Caroliniana is a hardwood tree that belongs to the betulaceae family. Its common names include ironwood, musclewood, blue beech, and water beech. It is native to the eastern parts of the United States of America. Its bark is smooth. The tree has muscle-like ridges on its trunk. Its flowers and seeds are inconspicuous. Female and male flowers are found on the same plant. Leaf-like bracts hold the seeds.

However, its leaves are conspicuous in the fall. The leaves turn from green to vivid shades of orange, red, and yellow. It thrives well in acidic soils. It does not tolerate drought and salty soils. Its wood is mainly used to make handles of small tools. In the past, it has been used to make utensils. It is commonly grown in lawns, parks, gardens, hedges, and naturalized areas. It forms a dense, cone shaped canopy.

However, it can be pruned to create a flat crown. It is difficult to find cultivars because the species is generally difficult to culture. It is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. Some diseases that have been reported include leaf rot, blight, wood rot, and cankers. Its fruits attract a variety of birds. However, the birds are not considered a problem because they help in seed dispersal. The tree is slow growing. It reaches its peak height in about 20 years.

Works Cited

Furlow, John. “The genera of Betulaceae in the southeastern United States.” J. Arnold

Arbor 71 (1990):1- 67. Print. Gilman, Edward and Watson, Dennis 1993, Carpinus caroliniana. PDF file. 1st Dec. 2013. <>.

Keeler, Harriet. Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them, New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1990. Print.

Niemiera, Alex 2012, American Hornbeam. PDF file. 1st Dec. 2013. <>.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)." May 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-hornbeam-carpinus-caroliniana/.

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