Tree following 2014: Hornbeam sucker

Gordon Square – panorama. Click to enlarge

Here in Gordon Square, I am happy to be back following in the footsteps of the Hornbeam, having missed a June update with holidays and hospitals.

Despite a wet, wet winter, the summer trees are starting to look just that bit faded and jaded. Part of the reason for the slightly tired appearance of the Hornbeam is not thirst but the ripening hop-like seed clusters which streak the foliage with Autumnal tints. Look underneath the canopy though and once again it’s a reassuring palette of dark emeralds.

In some lights, the wonderful, fluted bark resembles ebony as though the branches have been polished by the frequent clamberings of children (not that it would be permitted in these timorous times, or even be a possibility with the lower branches pruned). Nearest to the base, the Hornbeam’s trunk is starting to display more rugged, mature looks, although it has a long way to go before it reaches full maturity at about 100.

In the momentary stillness between breezes, the pendulous seedcases reveal small ribbed fruits, held in tri-lobed palms. Apparently it takes 10-20 years from seed before a Hornbeam will be mature enough to reproduce so that puts this one as a young adolescent, at least.  Perhaps this also answers the puzzle I posed in the May post as to why the hornbeam hedges around the Bloomsbury squares have no catkins.

The height and relative narrowness of the canopy has enabled the undergrowth to flourish. Most notably now it is bramble which puts on a protective front and in the flanks, the distinctly toothed leaves of the Corsican hellebores (looking good whatever the season).

Almost unnoticed in this entanglement, is a young shoot that looks remarkably like a Hornbeam – which indeed it is. Not a sapling from seed but a basal shoot. Perhaps it would be better without this sucker but I would not mention it to Council officials for fear the chainsaw contractors will be sent out.

And that about wraps up this month – I have to admit I’m becoming a bit of a sucker for Hornbeams.

Captivating Carpinus betulus

Tree Following with Lucy: There’s a link box on Loose and Leafy on 7th of the month for 7 days. Every month!
And am also following Pat@The Squirrel Basket who also is shadowing a Hornbeam


21 thoughts on “Tree following 2014: Hornbeam sucker

  1. Well, with a magnificent tree like that to admire I’ m not surprised that you are a sucker. I had no idea that they had seed cases like that, how beautiful.


  2. Since I love sharing at trees in general, thank you for introducing me to yet another one I have never heard of or seen! I love that they reach maturity at 100, sounds like a wonderful goal!


    1. its a tree that went out of fashion once we no longer sought its wood for furniture, oxyolks and charcoal – but the old ones are still to be found in woodlands. Now there are fastigate species for smaller gardens and of course hedging


  3. It’s fascinating seeing how another hornbeam is coming along. Yours is much more advanced than mine, fruit wise – mine are still very green.
    I also have a sucker, although this time I have described it as a seedling. Not sure…
    Keep up the good work, and I will keep on comparing 🙂


  4. ahhh thank you Laura, so mine are too young yet, this is probably the same for the Alders, though some of the Birches have had catkins for a few years now,

    your Hornbeam looks lovely in almost silhouette, it has a nice shape, despite the lopping of lower branches, they reveal the lower trunk which looks nice, so many seeds I wonder do any wildlife eat them, there is plenty of varied habitat for wildlife in and under the hornbeam, that hellebore looks pretty,

    glad you are out and about again,
    take care,
    Frances x


  5. Lucy Corrander

    I’m beginning to think there’s not such thing as summer where trees and plants are concerned. They leap from spring to autumn in one go, seeds there, leaves fading almost as soon as they open. Hardly ever a better protection for anything than brambles!


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