The slow-growing heartleaf hornbeam has taken both its scientific and common names from the heart-shaped base of the leaves, which are larger than other hornbeam species grown in Finland. The seed catkins, which develop in late summer, are longer and narrower than those of the European hornbeam (C. betulus), like foxtails. After the leaves fall they remain on the tree until early winter. The autumn leaf colour varies but at its best can be orange-red. In maturity the bark starts to exfoliate in strips, which helps in distinguishing it from the European species even in winter.
Given the right conditions, the hornbeams are valuable landscape and garden trees because of their habit and dense foliage. They are quite adaptable, growing happily in shade or full sunlight. When young they are irresistible as winter fodder for hares, so need protection. The heartleaf hornbeam is native over a large range in East Asia. Given the right provenance, this should be one of the hardiest of the hornbeams and survive at least in southernmost Finland.