American Beech
Fagus grandifolia

Location in Ontario
American Beech trees are found throughout the Deciduous Forest Region and northward. Beech grows on well drained soil, including sand. It is shade tolerant, and is most frequently seen deep in forests.


Giant Beech in Backus Woods, Norfolk 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. Beech trees are susceptible to a canker fungus and the insect Beech Scale (see the Tree Diseases page).

In the Landscape
Beech is a medium sized tree up to 25 metres that can reach up to 200 years of age. It makes a beautiful landscape tree, but is rarely seen as such due to its slow growth. It has beautiful smooth, silvery bark, graceful spreading branches and a golden fall colour, making it worth the wait for those who are patient!


Magnificent mature Beech trees in a residential yard, Oxford County

Leaves
Leaf buds are long and very slender with a pointed tip. Leaves are alternate and simple, leathery in texture, with large, flat teeth. Dried beech leaves are springy, so pioneers used them to make mattresses! Leaves turn yellow-gold in  the fall, and often persist on the tree over winter, especially on young trees.
Bark
American Beech trees are easy to recognize with bluish-gray smooth bark. The thin bark makes Beech susceptible to many types of insects. Often, trees have protruding roots. Unfortunately, vandals like to carve graffiti on Beech trees, defacing the bark.
Flowers
American Beech is monoecious with male (pollen) 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 at the same time as the leaves and are wind pollinated.
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.

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


Even small Beech trees are not immune from graffiti.


Yellow-gold leaves in the fall

Link to United States Forest Service Silvics Manual for American Beech.

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