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Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Reveal, James L.

Fagus grandifolia

Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.

American Beech, White Beech, Red Beech, Ridge Beech, Beechnut Tree

Fagaceae (Beech Family)

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.


From the Image Gallery

44 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 120 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red, Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: FL to e. TX, n. to s.e. MA, s. OH, s. IL, IN & MO
Native Habitat: Moist or wet, lowland sites

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Use Ornamental: 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 )

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Early Hairstreak
(Erora laeta)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Propagation 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

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1237 - The Passenger Pigeon (2004) Schorger, A. W.
Bibref 1258 - Trees of Ontario (2007) Kershaw, Linda

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1994 VOL. 11, NO.6 - Wildflower Center Featured Non-Profit in Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, Dana Leav...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Fagus grandifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Fagus grandifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Fagus grandifolia


Record Modified: 2018-12-10
Research By: TWC Staff

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