A study based on AFLP markers was conducted to characterise the present population genetic structure of Carpinus betulus in Europe and to formulate guidelines for the use of this species in plantations on a local scale in Flanders. High within-population diversity and little (but significant) genetic differentiation were detected at both Flemish and European scales. However, there was a pattern of isolation by distance only at the European scale. Within-population gene diversity, a new rarefaction-based measure of number of genotypes ('band richness') and percentage of polymorphic loci are lower north of major mountain chains, suggesting that the mountain ranges formed a second bottleneck for the hornbeam during postglacial recolonisation. In Flanders, despite lower gene diversity, there were more polymorphic loci than in other European populations, a pattern that might have been caused by the mixing of material through planting, e.g. in hedges. In view of these findings, it is advised to create a single Flemish seed zone and to use preferentially reproductive material from this seed zone for new plantations in Flanders.