Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Fagales: Fagaceae: Fagus grandifolia
Common Name: Information Sheet, American Beech
Photographer: E. M. Barrows
Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Collector: not applicable
Keywords: A brown fruit Fetr Garden-1 green fruit green flower yellow flower tree
Information Sheet, American Beech
Fagus grandifolia Ehrh., F. americana Sweet, F. atropunicea (Humphrey Marshall) George Bishop Sudworth, F. ferruginea William Aiton), American Beech, Beech, Blue Beech, White Beech
[Latin Fagus, a classical name for this genus; after Greek phagein, to eat, in allusion to the esculent nuts; grandifolia, large leafed]
[Anglo-Saxon beech, book, possibly because early Germanic writings were inscribed upon tablets of this wood (Harlow and Harrar 1958, 315)]
(Sutton & Sutton 1985, plates 88, 204, 236; Kricher & Morrison 1998, 129)
Tree, up to 120 feet tall, and 400 years old.
Forest specimens are slender and tall with short branches forming a narrow crown.
Open-area specimens are short and thick trunked with numerous slender, spreading branches that from a broad, compact, rounded crown.
American Beeches often have horizontal branches.
Many American Beeches are surrounded by root sprouts.
Leaves: alternate, deciduous, simple, dentate margins, strongly veined, elliptic to ovate (egg-shaped), up to 6 inches long; bronze, reddish-brown in fall.
Fruit: prickly bur, up to 0.75 inch long, 2–3 triangular beechnuts; green turning light brown; sweet; edible; September–October.
People call the nuts beech mast, beechnuts, and mast.
Fruits are sometimes for sale in eastern markets.
Beeches produce large seed crops (= mast) every 2 through 20 years, depending on the species and weather conditions (Vander Wall 1990, 199).
American Beech is a masting species.
General roles in forests.
American Beeches are autotrophs that generally live in forests, forest edges, successional areas, and yards.
Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living American Beech fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.
Specific roles in forests.
Old American Beeches often have butt rot and hollow trunks that provide shelter for large wildlife.
Leaf and stem feeders include deer which browse American Beech where more preferred food is not available.
These feeders also include 3 aphid spp., 2 beetle spp., 6 borer spp. 1 bug sp., 27 fungus spp., 1 leafhopper sp., 1 leafminer sp., 18 moth spp. (Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Gypsy Moth, Imperial, Io, Leopard, Luna, etc.), 10 scale spp., and 1 weevil spp. (Westcott 1973, 501).
A parasitic plant Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana, Orobanchaceae) commonly grows on American Beech and flowers in late summer and fall.
The Beech Leaftier [Psilocorsis faginella (Chambers), a moth] was abundant on an American Beech tree in the Glover-Archbold Park field in September 1996.
Its larvae brown beech leaves by skeletonizing them and tie them together with silk (Westcott 1973, 306).
The larvae live between the leaves.
The larvae are whitish pink with brown heads.
They winter as pupae. Adults appear in late May through June.
An adult has light brown forewings with transverse darker streaks.
This species seldom seriously injures beeches over the long term.
Seed feeders (predators) include the Black Bear, Blue Jay (seed scatter hoarder = SSH), Coal Tit (SSH), Eastern Chipmunk (SSH), Eastern Flying Squirrel (SSH), Eastern Gray Squirrel (SSH), Human, Raccoon, Red Squirrel, Ruffed Grouse, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Wood Mouse (SSH), and Yellow-necked Mouse (SSH)(Vander Wall 1990, 199).
Seed scatter hoarders forget where they have buried all of their beechnuts and these often sprout.
Therefore, these animals plant beech seeds.
We usually use beechnuts as animal feed especially for Pigs (Davidson and Knox 1991, 134).
The French, U.S. pioneers, and others turned pigs and turkeys into beech woods to eat the nuts.
Beechnut oil from European beech is above average in keeping quality and flavor, being used for cooking and salads.
Colonists knew the famous, closely related European Beech before they arrived in North America and used the American Beech.
Beechnuts have a fine flavor, and people have eaten them since prehistoric times (Davidson and Knox 1991, 134).
We carve dates, initials, etc. on beech trunks.
There are scores of carved American Beech trees in Glover-Archbold Forest, some possibly carved by GU students.
The earliest date that I have seen so far in this Forest is 1903.
The many carved beeches that once grew on GU Campus are gone – sigh.
Some people eat American Beech as a coffee substitute, flour, nuts, oil, and tea (Peterson 1977, 202).
We use this tree as a landscape tree because it has clean limbs and trunks, is free from insect pests, and produces a deep shade.
A beer company throws in a few pieces of beech in beer and advertises "beechwood aging."
The wood is a substrate for yeast used in brewing. What beer is aged in beech wood?
Xylem: close grained, difficult to season, hard, light to dark red, strong, susceptible to a high polish, tough, very close grained.
Phloem: thin, whitish.
We use the wood for barrels, cheap furniture, clothes pins, cooperage, flooring, fuel (largely in rural areas), shoe lasts, tool handles, wooden ware, and veneer.
American Beech is now an important timber tree.
Two “dwarf” American Beeches live on GU’s Main Campus, one in the Heyden Memorial Garden, Observatory Hill, and one near New South.