Columnar hornbeam has columnar growth and reaches 35′ x 15′. Attractive white flowers bloom in early summer producing a “bean pod” which hangs onto the tree through the winter. This tree does well in drought and alkaline soils if root space is not confined in areas like parking lots and tree medians. Their dark, thick, heart-shaped leaves help to tolerate full sun and limited water. Columnar hornbeam is also tolerant of pollution.
Restricted root zones from curb, pavement and sidewalks will cause trees to dieback. Intolerant of salt in the soil.
Trunk canker has been found on this species. However, it is uncommon.
Occasionally attacked by two-lined chestnut borer. Japanese beetle is known to eat significant portions of the leaves.
History and Use
Very desirable street tree for its upright form and tolerance of trimming. Has been used as a screen tree and in topiary for centuries. Pleaching is a technique employed by the hornbeam where single trunks are grown straight up and the limbs are trained to grow into adjacent hornbeams creating an elevated hedge. More common in Europe it is gaining popularity in the USA every year.
The wood is so hard it also known as “ironwood.” Traditionally, it was used as axe handles, wagon wheel spokes and often as cogs for various early industrial machines like steam engines. Iron took its place in industry as its price dropped and it became readily available.