Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Carpinus caroliniana


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Carpinus caroliniana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : CARCAR SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : CACA18 COMMON NAMES : American hornbeam blue-beech ironwood muscletree water-beech TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for American hornbeam is Carpinus caroliniana Walt. (Betulaceae) [3,11,13,22]. Infrataxa are [11]:

Carpinus caroliniana ssp. caroliniana Carpinus caroliniana ssp. virginiana (Marshall) Furlow LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The range of American hornbeam extends from central Maine west to southwestern Quebec, southeastern Ontario, northern Michigan, and northern Minnesota; south to central Iowa and eastern Texas; and east to central Florida [22]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch STATES : AL AR CT DE FL GA IN IL IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NH NJ NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VT VA WV WI ON PQ MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K098 Northern floodplain forest K099 Maple - basswood forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K102 Beech - maple forest K103 Mixed mesophytic forest K104 Appalachian oak forest K106 Northern hardwoods K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K113 Southern floodplain forest K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 26 Sugar maple - basswood 27 Sugar maple 28 Black cherry - maple 39 Black ash - American elm - red maple 44 Chestnut oak 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 55 Northern red oak 57 Yellow-poplar 58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock 59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 61 River birch - sycamore 62 Silver maple - American elm 63 Cottonwood 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 73 Southern redcedar 75 Shortleaf pine 76 Shortleaf pine - oak 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar 89 Live oak 91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash 94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm 97 Atlantic white-cedar 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 108 Red maple 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : American hornbeam primarily occurs in the understory of bottomland mixed-hardwood forests, but also occurs in dry-mesic upland hardwood forests [27]. Understory associates of American hornbeam in all parts of its range include eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), and speckled alder (Alnus rugosa). In the northern parts of its range, understory associates include striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum), mountain maple (A. spicatum), red mulberry (Morus rubra), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), serviceberries, and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Southern associates include magnolias (Magnolia spp.), deciduous holly (Ilex decidua), American holly (I. opaca), winged elm (Ulmus alata), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), water-elm (Planera aquatica), parsley hawthorn (Crataegus marshallii), riverflat hawthorn (C. opaca), common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana) [6,27].


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : American hornbeam wood is very hard, heavy, and close-grained. It is very difficult to work and is used only for tool handles, mallets, and golf club heads [4,6,7]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : American hornbeam is of secondary importance to wildlife. Ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, and northern bobwhite eat small quantities of the seeds, buds, and catkins. Seeds are consumed by yellow-rumped warbler [24]. The seeds are also consumed by ducks, but usually only when acorn production is limited [28]. Seeds, bark, and wood are eaten by rabbits, beaver, fox squirrel, and eastern gray squirrel. White-tailed deer browse the twigs and foliage [24]. American hornbeam has been reported in wild turkey crops from New York and Pennsylvania [6]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : American hornbeam nuts are edible but small and therefore are seldom collected for food [6]. The leaves of American hornbeam have been used as an astringent [19]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : American hornbeam is usually regarded as a weed tree because of its small size and poor form [6,27]. In eastern hardwoods, American hornbeam may increase in dominance on a stand under single tree selection management [23]. Intensive site preparation is needed to regenerate intolerant soft hardwoods (eastern cottonwood [Populus deltoides], sycamore [Platanus occidentalis], sweetgum [Liquidambar styraciflua], and yellow-poplar [Liriodendron tulipifera]) in the presence of American hornbeam [15]. American hornbeam initially dominated a clearcut site but was eventually overtopped by larger species [2]. American hornbeam may be controlled by 2,4,5-T [6]. Overstory cover is important for maintenance of American hornbeam. Cutting practices should leave some canopy trees for shade [6]. American hornbeam seedlings grown in full sun responded positively to increased nutrients (applied at levels to mimic the range of values for agricultural runoff and sewage sludge) [38]. Insects and diseases are not usually serious problems for American hornbeam [27].


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : American hornbeam is a native, deciduous small tree. It usually grows 30 to 40 feet (9-12 m) tall [4,13,32,39]. The bark is thin, close, and usually smooth. The trunk is often crooked, and is usually coarsely fluted, resembling a flexed muscle [4,7,13]. The fruit is a ribbed nutlet 0.16 to 0.24 inch (4-6 mm) long [3,4]. It is usually described as slow-growing and short-lived [27]. The largest American hornbeam on record for the Southeast was 75 feet (22.8 m) tall, 21.6 (54.8 cm) d.b.h., and 67.8 inches (172.2 cm) in circumference [42]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : The minimum seed-bearing age of American hornbeam is 15 years [32]. Production is greatest at 25 to 50 years and probably ceases at about 75 years [6]. Large seed crops are produced at 3- to 5-year intervals [27,32]. Seeds are are mainly dispersed by birds, and are wind blown only a short distance [6,27]. Matlack [25] estimated the lateral movement of American hornbeam diaspores (nut plus bracts) in a 6 mile per hour (10 km/hr) breeze as 64 feet (19.4 m). Seed dormancy may be broken by stratification. Stratification at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 deg C) for 18 weeks, stratification plus gibberellic acid, and scarification of the seedcoat plus gibberellic acid all improve germination [6,27]. The optimum natural seedbed for American hornbeam is continuously moist, rich, loamy soil protected from extreme atmospheric changes [6]. American hornbeam will also establish on leaf litter seedbeds in deep shade, even when competition is present [27]. Germination occurs from April to June in the spring following seed maturity [6]. In eastern Texas, seedling survival for American hornbeam is low the first year, but increases substantially thereafter. Flooding, drought, damping off, proximity to a conspecific adult, and herbivory were important causes of first year mortality. Mortality tends to be concentrated in short periods associated with particular events (flooding, for example). Periods of reduced flooding allowed American hornbeam seedlings to increase in importance [36]. Regeneration of American hornbeam after a seed-tree harvest in Arkansas consisted of new seedlings, advance reproduction, stump sprouts, and root sprouts [27]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : American hornbeam exhibits its best growth on rich, moist soils in bottomlands, coves, and lower protected slopes. It is also common along the borders of streams and swamps including bay and river swamps in Florida [6,8,27], and is also found in hydric hammocks in Florida [8]. The best sites for American hornbeam are characterized by abundant soil moisture but sufficient drainage to prevent saturation and poor aeration during the growing season [27]. American hornbeam is primarily found on poorly to imperfectly drained sites, although it grows on well-drained sites also [21]. Hook [41] rated American hornbeam as only weakly tolerant of flooding, although it occurs on sites that have a high probability of flooding in any given year. He commented that mature trees remain healthy if flooded less than 24 percent of the growing season, but are most abundant where flooding occurs 10 to 21 percent of the growing season [41]. In the Adirondack Mountains, American hornbeam is found on soils derived from limestone, gneiss, shale, and sandstone [21]. The usual soil pH range for American hornbeam sites is acidic (pH 4.0-5.6), but the tree can be found on soils as high as pH 7.4 [27]. Maximum elevation for American hornbeam is about 2,900 feet (900 m) in the southern Appalachians [7]. Its upper elevational range is 3,000 feet (910 m) in the Great Smoky Mountains, but is more common at about 1,600 feet (490 m) [27]. In the Adirondack Mountains, New York, American hornbeam occurs from 200 to 1,020 feet (60-311 m) elevation [21]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species American hornbeam is tolerant of shade [21,27]. It persists in the understory of late seral and climax communities. Shade tolerance is greatest in American hornbeam seedlings and declines with age [27]. Curtis and McIntosh [5] rated the climax adaptation of American hornbeam as 8 (10 is the maximum, usually assigned to species such as sugar maple [Acer saccharum]). American hornbeam responds positively to overstory removal. On certain southern sites, it is so aggressive that it prevents larger species from regenerating after logging or natural disturbance [27]. In minor streambottoms American hornbeam and other tolerant subcanopy species are likely to capture a site once the main canopy is removed [15]. In Connecticut, thinned northern red oak-black oak-scarlet oak (Quercus rubra-Q. velutina-Q. coccinea) plots had a higher proportion of American hornbeam and eastern hophornbeam than unthinned plots [40]. In North Carolina, American hornbeam first appeared in old fields 12 to 18 years after abandonment, and appeared 25 to 40 years after abandonment on old fields in New Jersey [27]. American hornbeam was present on 28-, 30-, and 40-year-old old fields in western Tennessee. It was not present on the 3- and 12-year-old sites [33]. Hupp [17] classes American hornbeam with species that do not normally invade degraded or newly aggrading substrates (in relation to stream channelization projects) but are tolerant of bottomland conditions and have seed that is long-lived (up to 2 years) and dispersed by wind or water. These species are best suited to establish in bottomlands that have already been stabilized by pioneer species, and occur in abundance on undisturbed sites or on sites that are in the later stages of recovery from channelization [17]. American hornbeam was present in the understory of a mixed hardwood bottomland forest dominated by water oak (Q. nigra), sweetgum, cherrybark oak (Q. falcata var. pagodifolia), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). American hornbeam seedlings and saplings dominated the reproduction layers in this forest [18]. In Florida, American hornbeam tends to capture gaps early, but is replaced by slower-growing and longer-lived evergreen species such as American holly and common sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria) [30]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : American hornbeam flowers from March 20 to May 6 in the Southeast, and from April to May in the northern parts of its range, usually before the leaves are fully grown [27]. The fruits ripen from August to October in the same season [6,27,39].


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : American hornbeam is not resistant to fire damage due to its thin bark. It probably sprouts after top-kill by fire. It occurs mostly in communities that rarely experience fire. Florida swamp and hammock communities in which American hornbeam occurs are estimated as having a fire frequency on the order of one or two fires per century [8]. Also in Florida, American hornbeam is one of a number of hardwoods invading longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) communities in the absence of fire. A community sampled 55 years after the last recorded fire was dominated by swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii), American hornbeam, live oak (Q. virginiana), water oak, sweetgum, eastern hophornbeam, Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), and pignut hickory (Carya glabra), with a few remaining large longleaf pine in the overstory [14]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : American hornbeam is probably either top-killed or killed by most fires. A wildfire severe enough to kill the hardwood component of a white oak (Q. alba) stand in Rhode Island eliminated American hornbeam from the stand. Prior to the fire, American hornbeam comprised 6 percent of the stems [3]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : In northern Alabama, prescribed fires in a 5- to 6-year-old hardwood stand (established subsequent to clearcutting) resulted in an increase in the total number of stems per acre 1 to 2 years after fire. Most of the increase was attributed to multiple sprouting from existing hardwood stems that were top-killed by the fire. American hornbeam was listed with a group of "all others" which numbered 171 stems per acre on the unburned plot. This group of species averaged 168 stems per acre, 26 of which were American hornbeam, on burned plots that experienced three different types of fires: (1) plots burned in spring with a strip headfire; 72 percent of the area moderately burned, 8 percent lightly burned or unburned, and 20 percent heavily burned, (2) plots burned in fall by a slow fire uniformly covering the area, and (3) plots burned in spring with a moderately intense fire over the entire sampling area [26]. In North Carolina, a 35-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation experienced a wildfire in 1931. When the stand was observed in 1940, American hornbeam density and basal area were low but similar on three types of plots: surface burn, crown burn, and unburned [29]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summary Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and eastern white pine stand in Michigan and the Research paper by Bowles and others 2007 provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of several plant species, including American hornbeam, that was not available when this species review was written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : The very hard, dense wood of American hornbeam rots very rapidly; dying trees usually disappear within a decade [21]. American hornbeam is sometimes present as an undesirable species in cut-over pine on terrace or terrace-equivalent sites. Burning in late spring to early winter may be useful for controlling undesirable hardwoods on these sites, but is effective only during a long dry period. Fuels are too moist to achieve good fire spread otherwise [34].


SPECIES: Carpinus caroliniana
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SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 38. Vaitkus, Milda R.; Ciravolo, Thomas G.; McLeod, Kenneth W.; [and others]. 1993. Growth and photosynthesis of seedlings of five bottomland tree species following nutrient enrichment. American Midland Naturalist. 129: 42-51. [20433] 39. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707] 40. Ward, Jeffrey S. 1992. Response of woody regeneration to thinning mature upland oak stands in Connecticut, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 49(3-4): 219-231. [19264] 41. Hook, D. D. 1984. Waterlogging tolerance of lowland tree species of the South. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 8: 136-149. [19808] 42. May, Dennis M. 1990. Big trees of the midsouth forest survey. Res. Note SO-359. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 17 p. [10556]