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Life History and Disturbance Response of Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam, musclewood)
Family: Betulaceae
Guild: persistent, slow-growing understory tolerant
Functional Lifeform: small deciduous tree
Ecological Role: found on rich, moist well-drained soils; seedlings readily establish in undisturbed forests and may persist for many years; shade tolerance declines with age and canopy openings are needed to maintain mature trees
Lifespan, yrs (typical/max): 100/150
Shade Tolerance: very tolerant
Height, m: 5-11
Canopy Tree: no
Pollination Agent: wind
Seeding, yrs (begins/optimal/declines): 15/25/75
Mast Frequency, yrs: 3-5
New Cohorts Source: seeds or sprouts
Flowering Dates: late spring
Flowers/Cones Damaged by Frost: no
Seedfall Begins: early fall
Seed Banking: 1 yr +
Cold Stratification Required: yes
Seed Type/Dispersal Distance/Agent: nutlet with bract/ to 100 m/ birds, wind
Season of Germination: spring
Seedling Rooting System: Information Not Found
Sprouting: stump sprouts and root suckers common
Establishment Seedbed Preferences:
Substrate: variable
Light: overstory shade
Moisture: moist required
Temperature: neutral
Disturbance response:
Fire: American hornbeam grows on swampy sites, where fire rarely occurs. Fires burn at intervals of several decades, primarily during the dormant season. In some places, severe wildfires have eliminated this species, but fire has been observed to have no effect on its density elsewhere. American hornbeam is probably either topkilled or killed by most fires. After topkilling, it sprouts from adventitious buds in the root collar. Seedling establishment may occur from surviving trees onsite or from offsite seeds carried by wind, birds, and other animals. Prescribed burning during very dry periods in the dormant season may be useful in controlling American hornbeam where it competes with other species.
Weather: American hornbeam is resistant to frost damage, and as the common name "musclewood" implies, is windfirm.