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name in North America for two groups of trees of the family Betulaceae (birchbirch,
common name for some members of the Betulaceae, a family of deciduous trees or shrubs bearing male and female flowers on separate plants, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. They are valued for their hardwood lumber and edible fruits and as ornamental trees.
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 family), native to the eastern half of the continent. Carpinus caroliniana, also called blue beech and water beech, has smooth gray bark. The hop hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana, has thin, narrowly ridged, light-brown bark. The strong, heavy wood of both species is used for tool handles, mallets, and vehicle parts. Many valuable hardwood timber trees of other families are called ironwood, especially in Australia and in the Old World tropics. Hornbeams are classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Fagales, family Betulaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Carpinus), a genus of deciduous trees, more rarely bushes, of the filbert family. The trunk has a smooth gray bark, and the leaves are regular, simple, and double-toothed. The blossoms are dioecious and sometimes monoecious. The staminates have hanging catkins of bracteal scales and no perianths. The pistillates have small-blossomed crown catkins. The fruit is a one-celled monospermous nut with a leaf-like cupule. There are about 50 species in Europe, East Asia, and North America (which has one species). In the USSR there are five genera, which are found in the western European part, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the southern part of Primor’e Krai. They grow mainly in two stories and in the underbrush of broadleaf forests. Hornbeams grow well in moist, loose, rich soils, but they will not tolerate marshy or acid conditions. Some types are found in dry lime-soil locations and on mountain slopes. They are used as ornamental trees in gardens and parks. The heavy, hard wood is used in the production of loom shuttles, musical instruments, and other objects, as well as in machine building.

The most common species are the European hornbeam (C. betulus) and the Caucasian hornbeam (C. caucasicus). These trees reach 20–30 m; their leaves are ovate or oblong-ovate and pointed. The nut is in a three-lobed bract. The trees begin to bear fruit when they are 20 years old and produce a crop of 1–1.5 tons per hectare. They are resistant to cold and bear pruning well. The eastern hornbeam, or little hornbeam (C. orientalis), grows in the Crimea and the Caucasus. It is a bush or small tree that has smaller leaves than the other species and an unlobed cupule on the fruits.


Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Any tree of the genus Carpinus in the birch family distinguished by doubly serrate leaves and by small, pointed, angular winter buds with scales in four rows.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any tree of the betulaceous genus Carpinus, such as C. betulus of Europe and Asia, having smooth grey bark and hard white wood
2. the wood of any of these trees
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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