Synonyms : Carpinus americana – Michx., muscletree
Common Name :American Hornbeam
Habitat: Carpinus caroliniana is native to eastern North America, from Minnesota and southern Ontario east to Maine, and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It also grows in Canada (southwest Quebec and southeast Ontario), Mexico (central and southern), Guatemala, and western Honduras
Carpinus caroliniana is a decidious tree reaching heights of 10–15 m, rarely 20 m, and often has a fluted and crooked trunk. The bark is smooth and greenish-grey, becoming shallowly fissured in old trees. The leaves are alternate, 3–12 cm long, with prominent veins giving a distinctive corrugated texture, and a serrated margin. The male and female catkins appear in spring at the same time as the leaves. The fruit is a small 7–8 mm long nut, partially surrounded by a three- to seven-pointed leafy involucre 2–3 cm long; it matures in autumn. The seeds often do not germinate till the spring of the second year after maturating.
It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen in November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
There are two subspecies, which intergrade extensively where they meet:
*Carpinus caroliniana subsp. caroliniana. Atlantic coastal plain north to Delaware, and lower Mississippi Valley west to eastern Texas. Leaves mostly smaller, 3–9 cm long, and relatively broader, 3–6 cm broad.
*Carpinus caroliniana subsp. virginiana. Appalachian Mountains and west to Minnesota and south to Arkansas. Leaves mostly larger, 8–12 cm long, and relatively narrower, 3.5–6 cm broad.
It is a shade-loving tree, which prefers moderate soil fertility and moisture. It has a shallow, wide-spreading root system. The wood is heavy and hard, and is used for tool handles, longbows, walking sticks, walking canes and golf clubs. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, for example the Io moth (Automeris io).
Thrives in any good loam, including chalk, it does not demand much light. Prefers a deep open loam. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A slow-growing and short-lived tree in the wild, it is slower growing than C. betulinus in cultivation. Seed production is cyclic, a year of heavy yields being followed by 2 – 4 years of low yields.
Seed – best sown in an outdoors seedbed as soon as it is ripe. Germination is usually good, though it may take 18 months. If collected whilst still ‘green’ (after the seed is ripe but before it has dried fully on the plant) and sown immediately it should germinate in the following spring. Grow the plants on for two years in the seedbed and then plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter. The average seed viability is around 65%. Pre-treat stored seed with 4 weeks warm and 12 weeks cold stratification and sow in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame until they are at least 15cm tall before planting them into their permanent positions.
Edible Parts: Seed.
Seed – cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails.
American hornbeam was employed medicinally by some native North American Indian tribes, though it is not used in modern herbalism. The inner bark is astringent. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and difficult urination with discharge.
The astringent inner bark was used to staunch bleeding. Delaware Indians used the root or bark infusion for general debility and female ailments. Iroquois used it for childbirth and used the bark chips in a polyherbal formula for tuberculosis. Iroquois also used it for big injuries and Italian itch.
Wood – heavy, close grained, very hard, strong, but not very durable in the soil. It weighs 45lb per cubic foot. Too small to be exploited commercially, this high quality wood is often used locally for flooring, cogs, tool handles, golf clubs etc. It is especially suitable for making levers and is also a good fuel.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider