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Carpinus fangiana (Fang’s hornbeam)

The leaves and fruiting catkins of Fang's hornbeam are larger than those of any other hornbeam.
Catkins of Carpinus fangiana

Catkins of Carpinus fangiana (Photo: Martyn Rix)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Carpinus fangiana Hu

Common name: 

Fang’s hornbeam, monkeytail hornbeam

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Temperate lower montane rain forests on shady slopes.

Key Uses: 


Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Carpinus

About this species

Carpinus fangiana is a rare hornbeam from western China, with large, elegant leaves and long, green catkins. It normally forms a large shrub, but when conditions are sufficiently warm and humid it can grow to a large tree up to 20 m tall.

It is named after Fang Wen-Pei (1899–1983), a Chinese botanist and expert on the trees of Sichuan, who first collected this species near Nanchuan Xian, in southeastern Sichuan, near Chongqing.


Carpinus wilsoniana


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Geography and distribution

Western China, in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi Provinces at 900–2,000 m elevation.

Colour print of Carpinus fangiana after a watercolour by Christabel King (© Christabel King)


A tree reaching up to 20 m or a multi-stemmed shrub with dark brown or grey bark. The twigs are smooth with large, spindle-shaped dormant buds. The leaves are finely serrate-dentate and thin and measure 6.0–25.0 cm long and 2.5–7.0 cm wide.

The male catkins are up to 6 cm long with deeply and irregularly toothed bracts, whereas female catkins are up to 50 cm long (giving rise to the common name monkeytail hornbeam) with papery bracts bearing shallow teeth apically (near the apex or tip) and on the inner margin. The nutlet is oblong, 3.5 cm long and glabrous.

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants.

Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis’s Botanical Magazine

Threats and conservation

Fang’s hornbeam is widespread but rare in the wild. There are no known direct threats.


Fang's hornbeam is cultivated as an ornamental.

This species at Kew

Carpinus fangiana can be seen growing west of the Azalea Garden at Kew Gardens.

Seeds of this species were introduced to Kew in October 1991 from a collection (SICH 842) made by John Simmons, Charles Erskine, Charles Howick and William McNamara.

References and credits

Flora of China. Carpinus fangiana. 4:291. Available online (accessed 10 June 2011).

Grimshaw, J. & Bayton, R. (2009). New Trees: Recent Introductions to Cultivation. International Dendrology Society and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Lancaster, R. & Rix, M. (2011). Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 28(2): t. 705.

The Plant List (2010). Carpinus fangiana. Available online (accessed 10 June 2011).

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Carpinus fangiana. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available online (accessed 10 June 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Copyediting: Malin Rivers

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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