Hornbeam/Blue Beech/Musclewood/Carpinus Caroliniana

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)January 25, 2007

I saw some trees in the yard of a 100-year old home in Quitman, MS, last summer that had the most beautiful bark! It was blue gray, very smooth, and the leaves looked similar to elm leaves - I'm familiar with beech trees, and these were definitely not that. I thought they might be carpinus caroliniana, also known as blue beech, musclewood, and hornbeam, so I ordered two of them from Mail Order Natives in Lee, Florida, and potted them up to plant later, probably next fall. The bark on my little trees is brown, not at all like what I expected. Do hornbeams really have blue gray bark? Maybe they develop it with age?

If anybody is familiar with what our native carpinus caroliniana looks like, please let me know! :)


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nomad_no_more(9B Gulf CoastTX)

Hi Sherry, I'm not personally familiar (isn't it odd that a native tree that grows over a third of the U.S. isn't known by everyone?) but did find this reference:

"Small native tree or large shrub often found growing near streams. The bark is gray and smooth on older trunks and looks like the muscles on a buff arm, hence another common name "musclewood". Grows 20-30 feet." So you were correct about the older trunks having the characteristic bark.

From Google images, the mature tree does have smooth, muscled slate gray bark.

The link will give you more info about this tree than you perhaps want to know...


Here is a link that might be useful: U.S. Forest Service

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 10:59AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks so much for the link, Monica!
With all the new trees I've planted since the hurricane, the forestry site should come in handy. I don't know why I didn't find it when I Googled carpinus caroliniana.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 1:36PM
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Are you sure it's not a European Hornbeam? The picture I have in a tree book (Creative Homeowner; Complete Trees and Shrubs) looks like what you're describing.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 5:22PM
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"Carpinus Betulus"

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:02PM
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