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Featured Plant - May

There is always something in bloom at the Arboretum! Use our Plants Library to plan a photo shoot or to choose one of the trails to walk. Learn more about the plants at the Arboretum by visiting our Previously Featured Plants list and our Special Seasonal Featured Plants page.


American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

American Hornbeam Branch American hornbeam is typically a small tree 15-20 ft tall. It is commonly found as an understory tree in bottomland forests along streams, but also on rocky ridges throughout the Eastern U.S. At the Arboretum numerous individuals can be seen along Scarborough Creek Road. At this time of year the maturing fruit clusters hang down from the canopy. These consist of a 4-6 inch stalk with a series of 3-lobed, leaf-like bracts the small nutlets are found at the base of these bracts. A related tree, European Hornbeam, is found along the Heath Cove Trail.


American Hornbeam Bark Common names of this tree are related to its bark and wood. The dense wood dulls woodworking tools (ironwood) and takes a horn-like polish (hornbeam). The muscle-like bark has sinewy, muscle-like ripples, (muscle-wood) and its otherwise smooth, blue-gray appearance resembles beech bark (blue-beech). The wood has been used for tool handles, bowls, and ox yokes. The fruits and buds are eaten by birds, squirrels, and deer.


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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu