/hawrn"beem'/, n.
any North American shrub or tree belonging to the genus Carpinus, of the birch family, yielding a hard, heavy wood, as C. caroliniana (American hornbeam).
[1570-80; HORN + BEAM]

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      any of about 25 species of hardy, slow-growing ornamental and timber trees constituting the genus Carpinus of the birch family (Betulaceae), distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The hop-hornbeam (q.v.) is in a different genus of the birch family. A hornbeam has smooth, grayish bark, a short, fluted trunk, and horizontally spreading branches. It differs from other trees in the birch family in that male catkins are not formed until the spring in which they mature. A leaflike, three-lobed husk surrounds each fruit, a nutlet about 1 cm (1/2 inch) long. The egg- or lance-shaped alternate leaves may remain on the tree into winter.

      The European hornbeam (C. betulus) has a twisted trunk that branches profusely; the tree may grow to 20 m (65 feet). One variety bears normal and oaklike leaves on the same tree. The American hornbeam (C. caroliniana) is also known as water beech and blue beech, the latter for its blue-gray bark. It seldom reaches 12 m, although some trees in the southern United States may grow to 18 m tall. The smooth trunk has a sinewy or muscular appearance and divides into slender, slightly pendulous branches. The egg-shaped, bronze-green leaves, up to 10 cm long, are white haired when unfolding; they are blue-green at maturity and become scarlet or orange-yellow in autumn. Because of its hard, heavy wood, the American hornbeam is commonly called ironwood. C. cordata, an Asian species, usually 15 m tall, has heart-shaped leaves up to 15 cm long. In the Japanese hornbeam (C. japonica), the downy leaves are reddish brown when unfolding; the smaller Korean hornbeam (C. eximia), usually 9 m tall, has egg-shaped, slender-pointed, downy leaves.

      The European hornbeam has a whitish, tough wood that is used in agricultural implements. The tree is a common ornamental in hedges and covered walks of Old World gardens and is often pruned into strange shapes. The American hornbeam is less popular as an ornamental; it requires partial shade and wind protection.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • hornbeam — 1570s, from HORN (Cf. horn) (n.) + BEAM (Cf. beam) (n.), preserving the original sense of the word; so called in reference to its hard wood …   Etymology dictionary

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  • hornbeam — noun a) A tree of the genus Carpinus), having a smooth gray bark and a ridged trunk, the wood being white and very hard. It is common along the banks of streams in the United States, and is also called ironwood. b) The wood of this tree …   Wiktionary

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