Common hornbeam

Common Hornbeam

©Anne Tanne

Common hornbeam

Scientific name: Carpinus betulus
Mainly found in Southern and Eastern England, the Common hornbeam is a tall tree of ancient woodlands. Its large catkins appear in spring, and its winged seeds are dispersed by the wind in autumn.

Species information


Height: up to 30m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Common hornbeam is an abundant tree in Southern and Eastern England, but is not as familiar as other woodland species, perhaps due to its general confinement to ancient woodlands. Its large catkins appear in late spring, and its large, winged seeds can be spotted in autumn as they are dispersed by the wind. The wood of the Common hornbeam is notoriously hard and difficult to work with, hence its other name of 'Hardbeam'.

How to identify

The Common hornbeam has a smooth, grey, 'twisting' trunk, toothed-edged leaves, and three-lobed seeds. It could be mistaken for Common beech, but its leaves are more toothed and veiny.


Grows wild in Southern and Eastern England; widely planted elsewhere.

Did you know?

During the winter, the seeds of Common hornbeam are a favourite food of the elusive Hawfinch - the UK's largest finch, which is declining at an alarming rate.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for woodland plants.