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(Hornbeam family)


Three genera, Carpinus L., Ostrya Scop., and Ostryopsis Decne., comprising 47 species of trees and shrubs, are found in northern temperate regions. Several species are commonly grown as ornamental trees.

The family is related to the Betulaceae and to the Corylaceae both on morphological grounds (Willis 1973) and on immunochemical evidence (Brunner & Fairbrothers 1979) obtained from a study of the antigenic proteins in the pollens from Alnus Mill., Betula L., Carpinus L., Corylus L., and Ostrya Scop. species.

Two species have been recorded as causes of skin irritancy. A third is a potential cause of methyl salicylate induced dermatitis. The pollen from Carpinus species has been causally associated with birch (Betula L., fam. Betulaceae) pollinosis (Wodehouse 1971).

Carpinus betulus L.
Common Hornbeam

The wood is said to have irritant properties (Hanslian & Kadlec 1966).

Ostrya virginiana K.Koch
[syns Ostyra virginica Willd., Carpinus ostrya L.]
Ironwood, Lever-wood, Hop Hornbeam

Stinging hairs at the base of the fruit can produce irritation of the hands (White 1896, 1903).

Ostryopsis davidiana Decne.

Paris & Pointet (1953) reported the presence of gaultherin in the bark of this species. Gaultherin releases methyl salicylate on mild hydrolysis (see Betula lenta L., fam. Betulaceae).


  • Brunner F and Fairbrothers DE (1979) Serological investigation of the Corylaceae. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 106(2): 97-103.
  • Hanslian L and Kadlec K (1966) Drevo z hlediska hygienického (VIII). Biologicky úcinné a málo úcinné dreviny. Drevo 21: 229-232.
  • Paris RA and Pointet M (1953) Presence of a monotropitoside in the bark of Ostryopsis davidiana. Annls Pharm. Fr. 11: 346-348. (Chem. Abstr. 47:10179h)
  • White JC (1896) Notes on dermatitis venenata. Journal of Cutaneous and Genito-Urinary Diseases 14(11): 441-443
  • White JC (1903) Dermatitis venenata—A supplemental list. Journal of Cutaneous Diseases including Syphilis 21(10): 441-455 [url] [url-2]
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Wodehouse RP (1971) Hayfever Plants, 2nd revised edn. New York: Hafner Publishing Co.

Richard J. Schmidt

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