Caprinus betulus (Hornbeam)
Other Names: Common Hornbeam, European Hornbeam.
Description: This large tree has a dense canopy which casts much shade. It can be the dominant tree in a woodland setting if allowed to grow to maturity but it is often coppiced. The species light gray bark can be confused with Beech but has vertical markings and most often a shorter, twisted trunk. The leaves can also be Beech- like but are shorter and have deeper furrows and toothed edges. They become golden yellow to orange in autumn and generally stay on all winter.
Uses: Hornbeam timber is a creamy colour with darker flecks and is the hardest wood of any tree in Europe. The modern uses for hornbeam are furniture making, wood turning and flooring but it was once used for creating ox-yokes which were used to tie a team of oxen together for ploughing. They are also used in the construction of butchers chopping blocks, partly due to their hardness but also as they have mild antiseptic qualities.
Conservation Value: As Hornbeams keep their leaves all winter they provide much needed shelter, roosting, foraging and nesting opportunities for birds and small mammals in this difficult season. The leaves are a food source for many moths and butterflies and the seeds are eaten by tits, finches and small mammals in winter.
Preferred Locations: The can be found on chalk, clay, sand or loam soils but favours clay. Likes a partially shaded location.
Size: Can reach a height of up to 30m with a canopy spread of over 8m.
Time to reach full height: 20 to 50 years.
Lifespan: Up to 300 years for a mature tree, longer if coppiced.