Carpinus fangiana

For the next week or so Daniel is away on holiday, so Eric La Fountaine and I will be looking after Botany Photo of the Day. I’m sure Daniel will be happy to share some photographs from his trip when he returns. In the meantime we have an image of Carpinus fangiana (synonym: Carpinus wilsoniana), or Fang’s hornbeam. Although unregistered, the tree in this photograph was given the cultivar name ‘Wharton’s Choice’. I took this photograph about a month ago after this smooth-barked, semi-weeping species caught my eye only a few steps from the Garden’s entrance. It stands out with its long, impressed-veined leaves and light-green, bracteate fruiting catkins. The male catkins grow up to 6cm, whereas the female catkins can be up to 50cm long (hence another common name, the monkeytail hornbeam).

Carpinus fangiana, of the Betulaceae, is a rare species native to central and western China. It grows on limestone hills in dense deciduous mixed forests with plenty of summer cloud cover and high rainfall. Carpinus fangiania has only recently been introduced into cultivation, and is now frequently planted as an ornamental. The plantings of this species here at the UBC Botanical Garden were only accessioned in 1986. The particular tree in the photo (as well as others here at the Garden) was grown from seed received from the Shanghai Botanical Garden that was wild collected in Hunan.

Fang Wen-Pei (1988-1983) lends his name to both the species’ epithet, fangiana, as well as the common name, Fang’s Hornbeam. Fang Wen-Pei was a Chinese botanist who collected over 20, 000 specimens, and described over 100 new species. He was well known for his work with the genera Acer and Rhododendron (see: Lancaster, R., Rix, M. 2011. 705. Carpinus fangiana. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. 28(2):103-110).

Carpinus fangiana

6 responses to “Carpinus fangiana”

  1. Steven Randolph

    Taisha – thanks so much for showcasing this lovely hornbeam tree. Hornbeams and their close cousins Hop hornbeams (Ostrya) are truly underappreciated ornamentals, probably since they do not have showy flowers. But the seed heads of many species are amazing, including this C. fangiana, which frankly I had never heard of, and Ostrya virginiana which has large hop-shaped seedheads. All the hornbeams and kin have lovely fall foliage colors, some even quite exceptional, such as C. caroliniana in oranges and russets. Also, the clan tends to have attractive bark and branching, so create beautiful winter scenes as well. In fact, C. caroliniana has common names of “musclewood” and “blue beech”, both referring to the lovely, smooth gray bark.
    The hornbeam clan has a reputation for toughness in culture outside their native ranges. C. betulus from Europe is a very reliable small/medium street tree, thriving in urban environments and tight planting areas. Perhaps this is due to their ecosystem niche as an understory tree, having to compete with the canopy trees for food and moisture.
    The Royal Horticultural Society has designated both C. japonica and C. betulus ‘fastigiata’ with the Award of Garden Merit. Athe the Pacific Northwest Great Plant Picks program ( has selected both as well as C. caroliniana to feature as reliable ornamental garden plants.
    So…here’s another reason to take another look at a lovely group of trees to consider for the home garden and public places.
    PS like Carpinus, Ostrya also has representation in central China, Japan, and Europe.
    Thanks very much!
    Steven, Bothell, WA

  2. Knox M. Henry

    Thanks Taisha for a very informative write-up. Well done! And, after his vacation, Daniel will have to provide some very spectacular pictures to equal or attempt to surpass the quality of your photograph.

  3. Sue Frisch

    lovely photo Taisha…thanks! as always your info enhances the image…

  4. Ron B

    Typical C. betulus is also and RHS Award of Garden Merit plant.

  5. Peony Fan

    Lovely photo! Sometimes we just don’t notice the more subtle beauties, especially if the season for these catkins is at the same time when spring flowers in bright colors abound. Interesting write-up, too.

  6. Barbara Rokeby

    Just back from a holiday in the Loire Valley. It seems that many castles had hornbeams planted in rows or pruned into large hedge-like allees. Also saw many big specimens in the Dublin Botanical garden. It was a lovely introduction to this group.

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