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American Beech Fagus grandifolia

Phonetic Spelling
FAG-us gran-dih-FOH-lee-uh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Fagus grandifolia, or American beech, is native to eastern North America and found throughout the state of North Carolina. It is a sturdy, imposing, large deciduous tree typically growing to 60 to 80 feet tall or more with a dense, upright-oval to a rounded-spreading crown and smooth bark that remains smooth as the tree ages. It is a low-branched tree with its mature trunk ranging from 2 to 3 feet  in diameter. This tree is slightly salt tolerant.

It can be a beautiful tree in a large area, but is not recommended for smaller landscapes. American beech prefers moist, well-drained, acid soil, is intolerant of wet or compacted soil, prefers sun but will tolerate shade. It grows best in moist mountain coves and is often found scattered with oaks and hickories in rich, well-drained bottom land. In the mountains, it is sometimes found in dense, unmixed stands or in association with sugar maples, yellow birch, and other hardwoods. It can be difficult to grow other plants or lawn underneath a standing American beech. Beech develops suckers from its vast system of surface roots and entire beech groves have often grown from the roots of a single tree. Fall color is golden bronze and leaves often last into winter.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  

Beech scale is an occasional problem on this tree. Beech blight aphids are common, forming dense colonies on small branches and the undersides of leaves. The aphids are food for the Harvester butterfly (Feniseca tarquinius), North Carolina's only carnivorous butterfly.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Fagus.

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#poisonous#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#tsc#ducks#park#playground#edible nuts#food source#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#foxes#wild turkeys#woodpeckers#children's garden#large spaces#bears#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#tsc-t#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#poisonous#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#tsc#ducks#park#playground#edible nuts#food source#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#foxes#wild turkeys#woodpeckers#children's garden#large spaces#bears#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#tsc-t#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Fagus
    Species:
    grandifolia
    Family:
    Fagaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    An excellent shade tree. This tree was used by Native Americans for building materials, medicine, and food. Wood is hard, strong, and tough though it will rot when exposed to weather or soil. The wood is used for flooring, tools, containers, and has a high fuel value.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Canada to Central Mexico
    Distribution:
    Maine to Florida, west to Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The nuts are eaten by small mammals, white-tailed deer, black bears, foxes, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, ducks, woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, American crows and blue jays.
    Play Value:
    Screening
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Edibility:
    Nutmeats, in small quantities, edible raw or cooked.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 40 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Nut
    Fruit Description:
    Prickly brownish fruit; seeds trigonous. Nuts are irregularly triangular, shiny brown and edible. Attached in groups of 2 or 3, prickly husks that remain on the tree after the nut has fallen, 3/4 of an inch long. September to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Monoecious yellowish green flowers bloom from March to May on the American beech. It's male flowers form in drooping, long-stemmed, globular clusters and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to triangular nuts enclosed by spiny bracts. Beechnuts ripen in fall and are edible.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Simple, alternate, ovate-oblong leaves, 2 to 5 inch long, half as wide, acuminate tip, coarsely serrate. Grouped toward the ends of branches or short branchlets. Leaves are dark green and glossy above, lighter green below, sometimes tomentose along the midrib and in vein axils on underside. Parallel veins pierce the margin; little bristles on the margin.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Trunks have distinctive thin, smooth, gray bark.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Somewhat zig-zag, grayish, shiny. Awl-shaped, imbricate, 3/4-1" long and slender, shiny, pointy.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Salt
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Can cause stomach irritation in some individuals if eaten in quantity.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Saponic glycoside.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits