Common Name(s): American Hornbeam, Blue Beech
Scientific Name: Carpinus caroliniana
Distribution: Eastern North America
Tree Size: 35-40 ft (10-12 m) tall, 1.5-2 ft (.5-.6 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 49 lbs/ft3 (785 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .58, .79
Janka Hardness: 1,780 lbf (7,920 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 16,300 lbf/in2 (112.4 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,693,000 lbf/in2 (11.68 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,500 lbf/in2 (44.8 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 5.7%, Tangential: 11.4%, Volumetric: 19.1%, T/R Ratio: 2.0
Color/Appearance: Hornbeam’s sapwood is very thick, with most boards and lumber being comprised entirely of sapwood. Color is nearly white. Pale yellowish brown heartwood isn’t clearly demarcated from sapwood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a fine, even texture.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores, often in radial or diagonal arrangement, (sometimes in dendritic arrangement); commonly in radial multiples of 2-4; tyloses occasionally present; growth rings indistinct; smaller rays not visible without lens, with much larger aggregate rays occasionally present and clearly visible without lens; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, banded (marginal).
Rot Resistance: Hornbeam is rated as non-durable to perishable in regards to decay resistance, and is also susceptible to insect attack. However, Hornbeam has excellent resistance to wear and abrasion.
Workability: Overall, Hornbeam is considered difficult to work on account of its density and toughness. However, this same density, coupled with its fine and even grain, make an excellent turning wood. Stains, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Hornbeam has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Not typically harvested commercially for lumber due to its small size, Hornbeam isn’t seen too often for sale. Prices for the wood should be moderate throughout its natural range.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Fuelwood, wheels, handles, shafts, and other small wood parts.
Comments: American Hornbeam is also sometimes referred to as “Blue Beech,” though it is technically not closely related to Beech, but bears a closer resemblance to Birch, being in the Betulaceae family. Also in this family is the somewhat related Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana).
The trunks of Hornbeam trees are fluted, which is sometimes still evident in processed lumber—the growth rings in the endgrain may appear more polygonal and faceted rather than perfectly circular.