American Beech Fagus Grandifolia
Beech Fagaceae family

Leaves are 1 - 5" long, elliptic with coarsely toothed margins, and distinctive veins. The leaves are marcescent, meaning they turn brown in the fall, but don't fall off until very late in the winter.

Fruits are small triangular nuts encased in a spiny-looking case that is not sharp. Beech nuts are an important food for black bear (among other species), and you may see old bear claw marks in the bark as evidence that bear have climbed the tree for the nuts. In fact, they will sometimes hide in the upper part of a beech tree in a "bear nest" of old beech leaves.

Bark Beech bark is smooth and light gray. Many of the trees in our area, however, have been affected by beech bark scale disease, and appear to have cancerous holes, bumps, and cracks in their bark. This is caused by the fungus Nectria coccinea, which is introduced to the trees by a tiny scale insect through frost cracks in the bark. Tom Wessel's book Reading the Forested Landscape will give you much more information on this malady.

Twigs are opposite, gold-brown (new growth), with numerous whitish lenticels. The buds are sharp pointed on the end and cigar-shaped with numerous scales.

Form/Habitat: is a tall tree that is very common in our area. 70 - 80' tall, and 2 - 3' in diameter. Beech likes to grow in moderate to rich uplands.

Beech stump sprouts, like most hardwoods, and consequently, there are areas that are very thick with new beech growth.

The prevalence of the beech bark disease is of concern because it is an important food to so many of our animals.

Winter Identification: Look for beech's smooth gray bark, which will commonly be interupted by rough and bumpy sections of beech bark fungus, appears swolen. Buds are also distinguishable before leaves appear.

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