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Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.
Synonym(s): Fagus americana, Fagus ferruginea, Fagus grandifolia ssp. heterophylla, Fagus grandifolia var. caroliniana
USDA Symbol: FAGR
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
American beech is a sturdy, imposing tree, 50-80 ft. tall, with a maximum height of 120 ft. Its bark is very smooth and light gray, remaining so as the tree ages. Large tree with rounded crown of many long, spreading and horizontal branches, producing edible beechnuts. Branches spread horizontally to form a rounded top and dense growth. Dark-green, glossy, prominently veined leaves turn copper-colored in the fall and hold on most of the winter. Beechnuts are among the most important of wildlife food.
American Beech was recognized by the colonists, who already knew the famous, closely related European Beech. American Beech is a handsome shade tree and bears similar edible beechnuts, which are consumed in quantities by wildlife, especially squirrels, raccoons, bears, other mammals, and game birds. Unlike most trees, beeches retain smooth bark in age. The trunks are favorites for carving and preserve initials and dates indefinitely.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Breeding System:
, Monoecious Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Red, Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May
, WV Canada: NB
, QC Native Distribution: FL
to e. TX,
n. to s.e. MA,
s. IL, IN
& MO Native Habitat:
Moist or wet, lowland sites
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Moist CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Moist, rich, well-drained soils. Sandy Loam, Clay Loam, Medium Loam, Acid-based Conditions Comments:
Beech develops suckers from its vast system of surface roots. Entire
beech groves have often grown from the roots of a single tree. Shade tolerant. Long-lived. Not suitable for small areas. Resistant to many pests and diseases, though a bark
fungus disease has proven fatal. Prune in summer or early fall. Root system is shallow, so it is difficult to grow grasses under beech. Beech is highly phototropic, meaning it leans markedly toward the strongest light. Extremely susceptible to root zone disturbance and drought.
Attractive, Shade tree,
Fall conspicuous Use Wildlife:
Beech nuts are eaten by many forms of wildlife. Nesting site, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals, Fruit-rodents, Fruit-deer, Cover, Browse. It was the tree
most associated with the extinct Passenger Pigeon, which fed on its nuts and roosted in its branches. Use Food:
EDIBLE PARTS: Nutmeats, in small quantities, edible raw or cooked. Young leaves can be cooked for greens in the spring (Poisonous Plants of N.C.). Early settlers gathered many beech nuts to extract the oil, which is similar to olive oil and was used as both food and lamp oil. (Kershaw). Use Other:
The first page of European literature was probably written on Beech. It is said, the earliest Sanskrit characters were carved on strips of Beech bark. The custom of inscribing the temptingly smooth boles of Beeches came to Europe with the Indo-European people who entered the continent from Asia. (Peattie) Warning:
POISONOUS PARTS: Unripe, raw nuts (seeds). Low toxicity if eaten. Attracts:
Birds , Butterflies Larval Host:
Early Hairstreak (Erora laeta )
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Sow fresh seed immediately or stratify seed for spring planting. Germinates well but needs protection from rodents and birds. According to several references, large crops of viable seeds occur at 2-3 year intervals. Between these years, large quantitie
Seed Collection: Gather ripe seeds from the ground or by hand from lower branches. Germination is reduced if seeds are exposed to high temperatures or allowed to dry during storage.
Seed Treatment: Stratify for 90 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff