I made a collecting trip with a new bonsai friend today, and we got some really nice American hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana). Among the nicknames for the species is “Musclewood.” This is because as it matures the trunk of a hornbeam will produce sinewy-looking ridges that run vertically along and sometime around the trunk.



Here’s the biggest specimen I got today. The trunk base is 4.5″ at soil level, and it’s 18″ to the chop on the main trunk. As you can see, it’s a twin-trunk with the two trunks really snugged together. I have a vision for it, so once it comes out I’ll get to work and see if my idea is going to work.

Aren’t the roots terrific? The muscling on this specimen is subtle but there. You can even see it on the small branch stub I left.


This is the best specimen I got today. The trunk base is 4″, and it’s 19″ to the chop. There was a secondary trunk growing in back, and I went ahead and cut it off. The trunk will need carving there, but that will only enhance the character.

The muscling is much more prominent on this one. And the radial roots are awesome.



I love the movement, muscling and character of this specimen. It’s smaller than the other two, with a trunk base of 2″, but the roots are still great and if you’re looking for a smaller American hornbeam that has great trunk character, you’d be hard-pressed to do better.

This one is chopped at 16″. It might could stand to be chopped another 4″ or so. That’s something I can decide later.

These trees should be budding in about eight weeks.


Let me know what you think.