American Hornbeam

Martin Sweeney

Reaction score
Waxhaw, NC

Thought I would share a picture taken today of my American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana. It was collected locally(Charlotte NC) about 6 years ago about this time of year from a friend's old family farm. It was 8'+ when dug, and was chopped back hard at collection. All the branches were developed from new shoots grown since. Unfortunately, you can probably tell where the cut was made. I am still working on the apex of the tree. This particular tree has a habit of growing "weepy" branches, I have raised most of the lower branches somewhat.

Comments or suggestions welcome.



  • AmerHornbeam 11-07.JPG
    AmerHornbeam 11-07.JPG
    58.3 KB · Views: 229
Your tree shows a lot of care and cutting! It has a great nebari and outstanding taper. I'd like to also see it in full leaf. If it were mine, I think I would have trained it more in the Oak style rather than the pine silhouette, just a matter of taste, I suppose.
There is nothing about this tree that suggests training in "oak style", unless it is a Pin Oak which grow just like it is currently. Oak style is generally reserved for shrubs with no hope of ever being grown in any other style, of course thats just my taste. I prefer the more refined image you are persuing even though it will take a little more time.

Very nice tree six years into training!

I've never seemed to get a real grasp of the expected response to pruning on my semi-weepy Korean hornbeam, and don't know if these are all that different, but I'm wondering if you can force more vigor up to the apex for development there by pruning those long lower branches back quite a ways and starting their development again from farther in, kind of an energy balancing thing like we do with conifers.

Even if not, a few more years and this guy will be quite nice. Great work, and thanks for posting. Please let us see the progression as it develops over the next few years.
Bonsai Barry,

I don't have any pictures in full leaf, but to be honest, American hornbeam leaves are pretty big, even with the leaf reduction of bonsai training. I haven't been trying for a pine style, but can't really argue that it is not headed that way. Trying to break out of that mindset. I am hoping that when I figure out the apex, it will lead to a more deciduous final image.

Mark and Grouper52,

Thanks for the replies. I am hoping to further refine the image with a wiring. Was hoping to wire this fall, but life got in the way. Will certainly strive to keep things updated.

Very nice collected American Hornbeam work!
Not the easiest tree to use for bonsai. You have done very well.

Here is a not-to-good picture I took this summer from inside my teahouse looking out into the narrowest part of my garden. It shows a large weeping American Hornbeam ( in the far corner) I have had for about 20 years. It started as a thumb-sized trunk of a rare-ish tree from a nursery. I grew it in the ground for 6 years to really size-up. I failed at removing two nice twisty air layers from it so finally decided to collect it and potup.
It has responded very well in a pot. I used to let it set out all winter here in Ohio until about six years ago when ground was covered deeply with snow for quite some time and rabbits , standing on top of snow, chewed off ALL the fine twigging! I had to start over on ramification. Very hard to replace as you probably know! NOW I put it in my greenhouse in the winter!!
In fact, it is the last tree I have to put in each year and right now is waiting for someone to help me move it into the end of the greenhouse. I finished winter storage yesterday....except for this tree!:)
Once in a while a branch will die back over winter here in Ohio but all-in-all a very satisfying tree.


  • new garden11.jpg
    new garden11.jpg
    64.2 KB · Views: 177
Dale, thanks for posting that! Great story and great tree. Very instructive. If you can post a more detailed picture of the tree some time, I would love to see it.
Here is a pic I shot this afternoon before before the neighbor helped me move it into the greenhouse. Sorry about angle/ background but it's too heavy to move to a photo site. The wisteria tendrels along the top of the fence get a bit confusing with the twigging in the top of the tree in the photo. sorry.
This is a serious 2-man move not only from the weight but from the branches right in your face to pick it up. It's hard to move without breaking something on it, so, I move it twice a year!
As I said, they are much harder to develope and ramify than the terrific Korean Hornbeams and the leaves NEVER reduce that nice.
I think next year I'l repot a bit lower or into a shallower pot if I can and then reduce it in size severely. It's too big and I need to eliminate that kind of stuff in my garden. I only have two trees left anymore that I can't manage by myself and this is one ( but I have a lot that I probably SHOULDN'T be moving by myself) . If I can shoehorn it into something smaller then I could afford to reduce the top to a more manageable tree and start over on the branching again.


  • hornbeam fall.jpg
    hornbeam fall.jpg
    70.7 KB · Views: 174
Last edited:
Great picture, Dale. Thanks. If you start in on ramification again after cutting it back, then it'll be the third time - better cut WAY back this time!! Really great to see these American trees, and especially one that's been with you for so many years.

Anyone interested in doing a virtual of what they see as a possible future for this tree?

Top Bottom