American beech trees have an average height of 50-75 feet with a typical spread of 40-60 feet. The trees have an oval shape with one central trunk growing straight up through the crown of the tree. Many branches are often horizontally oriented. The smooth bark is a gray and silver in color. The leaves are arranged alternately on the branches and are simple, serrate, and oblong ovate. In the fall, the two-four inches long green leaves turn a yellow and copper color. 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 (40). Beechnuts require one growing season to mature and they ripen between September and November. Two or (rarely) three nuts may be found within a single bur that contains distinctive triangular nuts. Seed fall begins after the first heavy frosts have caused the burs to open and is completed within a few weeks. Some empty burs remain on the trees throughout the winter. This slow growing, common, deciduous tree reaches its greatest size in the alluvial soils of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and may attain ages of 300 to 400 years. Beech trees may develop large numbers of root sprouts or suckers.
American beech is found within an area from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia west to Maine, southern Quebec, southern Ontario, northern Michigan, and eastern Wisconsin; then south to southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas; east to northern Florida and northeast to southeastern South Carolina. Beech is found at low elevations in the North and relatively high elevations in the southern Appalachians. A variety exists in the mountains of northeastern Mexico.
Beech and sugar maple are recognized as climatic climax species in the northern hardwood types of the Northeast, Lake States, and Appalachian Mountains. In the Southeast, relict areas of beech suggest that an original maple-beech association has been displaced by the once subclimax oak-hickory community. Within its wide range in eastern North America, beech is associated with a large number of trees. Some of the principal associates are sugar maple, red maple, yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American basswood (Tilia americana), black cherry (Prunus serotina), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), red spruce (Picea rubra), and several hickories (Carya spp.) and oaks Quercus spp.). Beech nuts are a valuable food source for a large variety of birds and mammals, including mice, squirrels, chipmunks, black bear, deer, foxes, ruffed grouse, ducks, and bluejays. Beech is the only nut producer in the northern hardwood type.
In addition to being a valuable food source for wildlife, beech wood has many commercial uses. It is used for flooring, furniture, turned products and novelties, veneer, plywood, railroad ties, baskets, pulp, charcoal, and rough lumber. Beech wood is especially favored for fuelwood because of its high density and good burning qualities. Creosote made from beech wood is used internally and externally as a medicine for various human and animal disorders.
Gilman, E.F., & Watson, D.G. (1993). Fact sheet for American beech (fagus grandifolia).Retrieved from http://hort.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/faggraa.pdf
Tubbs, C.H., & Houston, D.R. (2004). American beech (fagus grandifolia). Retrieved from http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/silvics_v2.pdf
|whole tree (or vine) - general|
|whole tree (or vine) - winter|
|bark - unspecified|
|bark - of a large tree|
|bark - of a large tree|
|leaf - whole upper surface|
|fruit - as borne on the plant|