Hornbeam Rockhampton Red

An exciting new variety of Hornbeam discovered by chance on a UK tree nursery, Carpinus betulus ‘Rockhampton Red’ has the same growth characteristics as the widely grown common Hornbeam but the leaves turn from green to bright red and orange from late September. The colours persist until November when the leaves whither and turn to nut brown with many of them being retained till the next spring.

A super new plant with great potential for all the same purposes as the usual native Hornbeam­ – as a specimen tree, for pleaching, topiary or even as a very special hedge. Plant Rockhampton Red intermittently with common Hornbeam or other varieties of hedging for a ‘tapestry’ effect hedge. Also stunning as part of a woodland planting.

The bark is pale grey and develops ridges with age, the trunk can be short and twisting but when coppiced the many new shoots are tall and thin.  The pleated pale green leaves emerge from the pointed buds and darken with age. The female catkins, which grow on the same tree as the male, develop into papery green winged fruit. The small nuts are contained in a leafy bract.

This tree grows very well in a wide range of soil types including those which are poor and dry, chalky and even in heavy waterlogged soils, doing well in conditions that few other trees would tolerate. Copes well with windy and exposed conditions and so is suited to be planted for screening and wind protection.

The name Hornbeam derives form the hardness of its wood, ‘horn’ meaning hard and ‘beam’ meaning tree in old English. Coppiced for poles and made into charcoal, it was once common to see carefully formed stacks of hornbeam in woods ready for the charcoal burning process or for firewood. Hornbeam is a very long-lived species, and specimens of over 100 years of age are not uncommon. Fast growing at 30 to 60cms per year this tree can be pruned at any time of year, can reach 30 metres if left grow.