Carolinian
and Deciduous Forest Trees

of Southern Ontario
 

American Beech
Fagus Grandifolia

Location in Ontario: American Beech trees are found throughout the Deciduous Forest Region and northward.


Magnificent mature Beech trees in a residential yard, Oxford County
 

Genus Fagus: Leaves are simple and alternate. Winter buds are long, pointed and scaly. Bark is smooth, thin and bluish-gray. The fruit is a three-sided nut. The trees are monoecious with male (pollen) flowers and female (seed) flowers on the same tree. The wood is hard and tough. In Ontario, the only species of Fagus is American Beech.
 
Habitat: American Beech grows on well drained soil, including sand. It is shade tolerant, and is most frequently seen deep in forests.

 
Landscape Use:
American Beech makes a beautiful landscape tree, but is rarely seen as such due to its slow growth. It is a medium sized tree, with smooth silvery bark, graceful spreading branches and a golden fall colour, making it worth the wait for those who are patient!
 
Beech Bark Disease: American Beech is susceptible to two invasive species; the insect Beech Scale which damages the bark, and a canker fungus which invades the wounds caused by the Scale. Both species originated in Europe and were brought to Canada on European Beech plants. Many Beech die from damage within a few years, while others are weakened and subject to damage by winds. The long term effects on populations is not yet known, as Beech Bark Disease has only been in Ontario since 1999.
Reference:
Beech Bark disease in Ontario

Leaves: Leaf buds are long and very slender with a pointed tip. Leaves are alternate and simple, leathery in texture, with large, flat teeth.


Long slender buds


Simple leaves with distinctive veins

TREE FACT: Dried beech leaves are springy, so pioneers used them to make mattresses!

FALL COLOUR WATCH: yellow-gold

Size: This is a medium sized tree up to 25 metres that can reach up to 200 years of age.


Most large Beech have exposed roots

Bark: American Beech trees are easy to recognize with bluish-gray smooth bark. The thin bark makes Beech susceptible to many types of insects. Unfortunately, vandals like to carve graffiti on Beech trees, defacing the bark.


Even small Beech trees are not immune from graffiti.

Flowers: American Beech is monoecious with male (pollen) flowers and female (seed) flowers on the same tree. Male flowers are tiny and yellowish-green, grouped in small ball-like clusters at the end of a long stalk. Female flowers occur in small clusters near branch tips. Flowers appear in May.

Fruit: The seeds are edible nuts, with bristly husks. The nuts are favoured by small mammals and birds. Seeds mature in October. Nuts are produced when the tree is between 40 and 60 years of age. Good seed crops occur between 2 and 8 years apart.

TREE FACT: Beech nuts are edible, with a mild taste. However the skins of the nuts are slightly toxic. Roasting allows the nut skin to be easily rubbed off. Roasted, ground beech nuts can be used as a substitute coffee. Oil extracted from beech nuts is similar to olive oil.


Seed husks

Wood: The wood is hard and tough and used for flooring, furniture and crates. Beech is also a favoured firewood.
Specific Gravity: 0.64
Janka Hardness: 1380 lb

Wood Comparison Chart


Giant Beech in Backus Woods, Norfolk County

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