Fagus grandifolia (American beech)

This glorious, beautiful tree once made up vast, dense forests in eastern North America and the Midwest, but its numbers were decimated as it was cut down in the 19th Century—not for its wood, but because it grows in rich, tillable soil. Now the tree, while far from extinct, is limited to mixed forests, where it is often associated with sugar maple or eastern hemlock. The beech-maple forests of the northern Midwest are among the most beautiful forests on our continent.

Like quaking aspens, American beech trees reproduce both sexually and asexually, and one often sees a proliferation of beech saplings, cloned through the root system of a large, nearby tree, surrounding the original. Our friend Ed calls these "sons of beeches."

Midwestern range
midwestern range

Fagus grandifolia
American beech has smooth, gray bark, and trunks are reminiscent of elephant legs

Fagus grandifolia
leaves have serrated edges, and are dark green above, light green below


Fagus grandifolia
twigs are olive when very young, then gray, with small leaf scars

Fagus grandifolia
buds in spring

Fagus grandifolia
twisting, exposed "feet" above the roots


Fagus grandifolia
beech nuts are enclosed in 4-sided, spiny burs

References: Peattie 1948, GN Jones 1971, Miller & Jaques 1978, Kricher & Morrison 1988, Preston 1989, RL Jones 2005, Mohlenbrock 2006, Kershaw 2007, Sibley 2009, Voss & Reznicek 2012, Mohlenbrock 2014, Hilty 2022, USDA 2022.

Kuo, Michael & Melissa Kuo (December, 2022). Fagus grandifolia (American beech). Retrieved from the midwestnaturalist.com website: www.midwestnaturalist.com/fagus_grandifolia.html

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