American Beech

Botanical Name:
Fagus grandifolia

Family Name:
Fagaceae / Beech

The American beech is a long living and slow growing tree that produces hearty beech nuts in the late summer. While delicious and edible when ripe, the unripe nuts contain small amounts of a mild toxin and should not be consumed.


Habitat and Range:
The American beech is native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia to northern Florida. They are not fussy about sunlight and will grow equally well in full sun or part shade so long as they have plenty of access to water. The American beech is quite sensitive to pollution.

The American beech has smooth, silver-gray bark and a low canopy of toothed dark green leaves. During the spring, the copper-colored leaf buds are distinctly thin and long, resembling cigars. The mature tree flowers in the spring and produces nuts in the fall. During the fall, the foliage turns yellowish gold. The leaves remain in place throughout the winter providing a stunning visual display as they catch the bright winter light and flutter in the wind.

Wildlife Value:
The American Beech provides a bounty of food and habitat for insects, birds, and small mammals making it one of the more valuable tree species for wildlife. The beech nut is high in fat and is enjoyed by a multitude of animals including opossums, squirrels, deer, bear, and an assortment of birds. The tree is also host to numerous insects including ants, aphids, wasps, and over 100 species of moth and butterfly caterpillars making them a preferred foraging destination for insect eating birds such as woodpeckers. The trees often develop natural cavities that make them sought after homes for cavity-dwelling birds and waterfowl.

Did you Know?
• The American beech can survive for over 400 years but many do not live that long because the tree is often harvested for firewood.
• The bark of the American beech often tempts passers to carve their initials, but this is a highly discouraged form of graffiti.
• If a beech tree is injured or dies but the roots remain intact, a new beech sapling may shoot out of the roots forming an identical clone of the mother tree.
• The American beech has one of the hardest woods out there making it extremely difficult to split or work with. People steam the wood to make it more pliable when making bentwood furniture.

Benefits to Our Community (based on carbon dioxide sequestered, storm water runoff avoided, and air pollution removed each year):
Over the next 15 years, this tree will give back $90 worth of benefits to our community.