Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) grows wild in the south and east of England, where it may form woods and copses on its own, or mixed with other species. Trees found in other parts of the country have probably been planted, or seeded themselves from planted trees.
The bark is grey with a silvery tinge, and the leaves produce attractive yellow and orange autumn colours. The female flowers are greenish catkins up to 12cm long and the fruit is a small nut with three-lobed wings to help with wind dispersal.
How to grow hornbeam
Hornbeams have a moderately slow growth rate reaching 6m high and 4m across in 10 years, 11m x 6m in 20 years and 25m x 20m when fully grown. Young trees are pyramidal in shape, becoming rounded as they mature. They grow in full sun or partial shade and can tolerate any aspect or soil.
Hornbeam leaves provide food for many small moth caterpillars and the nut-like seeds are devoured by wood pigeons and the uncommon and elusive hawfinch.
The dense, twiggy growth of hornbeam hedges can make a good nesting site for birds such as wren, blackbird, thrush and chaffinch.