520 Fagus grandifoliaCommon Names: beech, American beech, Carolina beech Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
The American beech is a large, long-lived tree of impressive proportion and beauty. In the forest of Eastern North American this beech grows straight and tall to about 80 ft (24.4 m). However when grown in the open, the tree assumes a broad rounded form with long, spreading branches to reach lesser maximum heights of about 40 ft (12.2 m). This deciduous hardwood has leaves that are oval in shape with a long pointed tip and saw-toothed edges. They have a fuzzy texture when young and are medium green turning to bright yellow in autumn. The trunk grows up to 2.5 ft (0.8 m) in diameter and is covered with a rather smooth grayish bark that becomes rougher and darker as the tree ages. The American beech's flowers are insignificant but mature to produce small triangular nuts surrounded by brown prickly burrs.
American beech, Fagus grandifolia, occurs on the rich soil of uplands and well drained lowlands from southeastern Canada to Wisconsin, south to north Florida and west to eastern Texas.
CultureLight: Plant in full sun for best form but also very tolerant of shade. Moisture: Prefers moist, well drained soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: Seeds and rooted cuttings
As a landscape tree, the beech is used for shade and subtle fall color. Place a single specimen on an expanse of lawn to serve as a focal point. If you have lots of space, arrange a few beech trees into a small grove to create a shady hideaway for summer days. Be forewarned that the beech's hungry roots and deep shade make it difficult to garden beneath the dense canopy. The tree also has a tendency to send up annoyingly untidy twiggy suckers from the shallow roots. (cut these off, don't apply weed killer as this will harm the tree). A thick bark or pine straw mulch makes a neat appearance around the tree and will suppress stray weeds and moss.
The American beech does not grow as fast and is not available in as many interesting form as the European beech (F. sylvatica) but that should not keep you from growing it - this is an awesome tree!
Grown in the open, the Beech tree develops a densely rounded crown providing deep shade. Its nuts are very oily and are readily consumed by birds, squirrels and other wildlife. In the fall the foliage turns yellow and then russet-brown, often persisting on the tree into the winter.
The hard wood of American Beech has found many uses in the forest product trade. Some of these uses have included railroad cross ties, charcoal, veneers, furniture, turned items such as spindles, brush handles, crates and barrels.
Remember Beechnut® Chewing Gum? Well that product has nothing to do with either beeches or nuts but if you inspect their logo you'll see a tiny beechnut set in a cluster of leaves.
You may occasionally see this tree referred to as F. americana but that name is now considered a synonym, replaced by F. grandifolia.
Steve Christman 10/31/98; updated 7/1/02, 9/22/02, 10/12/02, 2/16/04