European Beech – Fagus sylvatica

European Beech – Fagus sylvatica
Family Fagaceae – Beech, Chinkapin and Oak

This lovely shade tree provides spectacular golden winter-persistent foliage.

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midwinter beech foliage

Late afternoon sun on midwinter beech foliage can be quite spectacular!
European Beech is a large shade tree, maturing at about 60′ tall by 40′ wide. It has an upright oval growth habit. Beech liks full sun to partial sun but are tolerant of partial shade. They grow best rich moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils.

Beech flowers appear in late April or early May when the leaves are about one-third grown; the species is monoecious. The flowers are quite vulnerable to spring frosts. Male flowers occur in long-stemmed heads; female flowers in clusters of two to four. Beechnuts require one growing season to mature and they ripen between September and November. Two or  three nuts may be found within a single bur. Seed fall begins after the first heavy frosts have caused the burs to open.

 European Beech shows persistent midwinter foliage. Variation 'Rotundifolia' [1]
The tree pictured above stands out like a blazing torch in an otherwise drab landscape.

Beech trees prune themselves in well-stocked stands. Open-grown trees like the specimen pictured above, however, develop short, thick trunks with large, low, spreading limbs terminating in slender, somewhat drooping branches that form a broad, round-topped head.

European Beech is recommended for use in public areas.  Makes an excellent hedge because of its ability to withstand heavy pruning.  It is better adapted to growing conditions than the native American Beech.   This cultivar is a slow grower – many years to produce good shade. It can be adapted to  bonsai.

This European Beech specimen is 50 years old and about 50 feet tall [1]

The wood of the European Beech is used in the manufacture of numerous objects and implements. Its fine and short grain makes it an easy wood to work with, easy to soak, dye, varrnish and glue. Steaming makes the wood even easier to machine. It has an excellent finish and is resistant to compression and splitting. Milling is sometimes difficult due to cracking and it is stiff when flexed. It is particularly well suited for minor carpentry, particularly furniture. From chairs to parquetry (flooring) and staircases, the European Beech can do almost anything other than heavy structural support. Its hardness make it ideal for making wooden mallets and workbench tops.

European Beech Foliage

1. European beech, Morton Arboretum acc. 264-55-1 & 306-58-2, photos © Bruce Marlin

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Family Fagaceae: Oak, Beech & Chinkapin
There are about 900 species in this family worldwide, about 65 trees and 10 shrubs of which are native to North America. The oak genus Quercus contains about 600 species, including both deciduous and evergreen species.  Although many exhibit the characteristic lobed leaves, some have serrated leaves while others may have a smooth margin. Tree Encyclopedia | Tree Index | Fagaceae Index