MMuhlenberg College

Graver Home

Virtual Tour

Bark of Blue Beech

Leaves of Blue Beech


Carpinus caroliniana

Common Name of Genus: Blue Beech, Musclewood, American Hornbean
Family: Betulaceae

Description:  Hardwood tree that is slow growing and short living. Being very shade tolerant it mainly grows in the understory.
Simple, alternate that are between 2 -4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. They have toothed edges that have a round base and tapers to a point.
There are both male and female flowers on the same tree (monecious), however are found separately. They appear between April - May.
Nutlets that form at the base of 3-lobed green bract and form into fruiting cluster.
Bark: Smooth blue-grey bark that has ridges that gives in the appearance of muscles
Branching Pattern:
  The top of the tree is bushy caused by the slender, crooked, drooping branches.
Trunk: Can grow to a diameter of 2 feet 
Height: 20 - 40 feet tall  
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest: Wet-mesic, rich soils. Requires well drained soil and does not tolerate flooding.
Known Wildlife Interactions: Food source for grey squirrels and some game birds.
Range:  Found in most of the Eastern United States and up into southwest Quebec, Canada. It's western range extends to just past the Mississippi into north-central Minnesota and then south to eastern Texas. It is not found in southern Florida and along the rest of the Gulf Coastal Plains. It is also found in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide: Not threatened in either U.S. or globally.
Uses (Human): The tree is not large enough to be used as lumber, however the hard wood is for tool handles, levers and mallets.

Forest of Illinois. Illinois State Museum. Accessed February 28, 2006. <>

Metzger, F. T., Northeastern Area: State and Private Forestry. USDA Forest Service. Accessed February 28, 2006. <>

Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains.  February 23, 2005.  Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.  Accessed:  January 20, 2006. <>

The Pennsylvania Flora Project.  Botany Department, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.  Accessed:  January 20, 2006. <>

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species <>

This page was created by: A Coiro, Muhlenberg College
Photos by: L. Rosenberg, edited by N. Smith
Last updated 04/24/06