Carpinus caroliniana American hornbeam/ironwood Betulaceae CACA3; Bx, bg, br, bz, pb, vc; NY, hb; Q, a, cu; K, p; R, ah, an, ar, bd, cp, cs, d, gb, gr, h, lp, lt, r, sv, w, wt;



Carpinus caroliniana.Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Creative

Carpinus caroliniana is a small understory tree, ca 10 m, wide, low habit, usually multi-stemmed or low branching, trunk corded, surface sinuous, bark smooth, dark; deeply rooted, winter buds to 0.3 cm. 

Leaves alternate, narrowly egg-shaped to 2-10 cm long, 6 cm wide, tip long-pointed, base rounded to slightly lobed, hairy on veins below with tufts of hairy in vein axils, margin doubly, sharply toothed; autumn color yellow, orange to red.

Flowers sexes separate on same tree (monoecious), in catkins males 2.5-5 cm long females shorter (USDA, NRCS 2010), wind pollinated; blooms April-May. 

Fruit in elongated catkins to 5-10 cm long, bracts 3-lobed 2-3 cm long, 5-7 veined, fruit a small nut, about 0.6 cm. Seeds wind and bird dispersed, in fall. Seeds, buds and catkins eaten by birds and small mammals, squirrels (Martin et al. 1951). 

Wetland status: FAC. 

Frequency in New York City: Frequent. 

Origin: Native. 

Carpinus caroliniana.Frank Bramley.New England Wild Flower Society

Carpinus caroliniana.Frank Bramley.New England Wild Flower Society (Accessed 11/2014).

Habitat: Understory of moist, undisturbed woods, often at edges of swamp forests, in moist, well-drained soils pH 4-7.5 (USDA, NRCS 2010). 

Notes: Appears about 30 years after abandonment of old-fields. Very shade tolerant as seedlings, possible less so with age, but always found in closed canopy woodlands, shade index 8-10. Resistant to sulfur dioxide. Intolerant of flooding, salt, drought and soil compaction. Susceptible to fire but attacked by few insects or fungi (Burns and Honkala 1990; Hightshoe 1988). Twigs eaten by deer and rabbits (Martin et al. 1951).