European Beech

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
This tree is situated in a fairly isolated patch of ground on a somewhat rocky hillside with decent light exposure due to it's proximity to the open space of a parking lot. In addition to the massive circumference of the tree, the carvings of visitors from years ago still adorn the trunk of this otherwise silvery smooth beech.
Jannet Rivera and Kara Weiss
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Broad pyramidal shape
Date of tree entry: 
22.40 m
Diameter at breast height: 
328.00 m

The bark is smooth and has a silver grey color. Even as trees age the bark maintains its smooth appearance.
Twigs & branches
Twigs appear to complete a distinct zig-zag pattern from one bud to the next. Photo source:
In the fall leaves adopt a rich red to orange hue. In the winter, leaves of the tree have a deciduous habit, meaning they are lost in colder months. In the summer, full-grown leaves have a deep, shiny green color and size ranges from two to four inches long and one to two inches wide. The shape is primarily elliptical with blunted points at the apex. The edges show a very smoothed tooth pattern that often takes the form of a wave, in short, they have a crenate margin. The leaves are alternate and simple. Image source:
Reproductive Structures
The beech tree is monoecious, meaning it houses both male and female reproductive structures. The female structures take the form of a spiky capsule fruit called a beechnut that encloses two seeds. Beech pollen, which is emitted from the male reproductive structures, can be released in substantial quantities during appropriate times in the mating season, and for this reason, is known as a common allergen. A few seeds may be produced around 10 years of age, but high seed volume is not achieved until nearly thirty years after the tree begins growing. Image source:
Beech fruits are called beechnuts and are contained in pairs within a spiky capsule that splits into four parts. If not prepared properly, the nuts have slight toxicity. Image source:
Natural range of distribution: 
The European beech enjoys a very wide distribution across Central and Western Europe due to its successful ability to out-compete other species in high shade environments. The tree excels in humid atmospheres and benefits from well-drained soils that are soft enough for root penetration. The species can be found throughout America due largely to intentional planting in parks, around golf courses, and in other public spaces. Image source:
Origin, history, and uses: 

Although the European beech is often thought of as native to southern England, biogeographic evidence suggests that the species did not arrive in until 4000 BC, meaning it was likely introduced by Stone age humans, who used the nuts as a source of food. 

In America, beech trees have long been popular as they are often an indicator of fertile soil and would be sought out as a location that was likely for the growth of successful crops. 

When examining the role of the European beech specifically, it has been intentionally cultivated since around the 19th century, and is very popular as an ornamental tree. Although there is an American variety, the European counterpart is often favored as it grows more rapidly to allow for earlier enjoyment. 

The wood of the European beech is well suited for furniture. Chairs, flooring, and staircases are all common uses. Although staircases are loadbearing, beech wood is not well suited to substantial structural support and is rarely used as beams. Due to the density of the wood, it is often selected for work surfaces. On occasion, it can be used to create paper. One of the primary purposes of the wood is as firewood.

In the past, the beech nuts were used to create oil and were ground to make flour.

Presently, a product used to create an artificial smoke flavor is made from the European beech.

The leaves are a beautiful light bright green when they are unfolding during the spring, they then deepen to dark green in summer and become a rich russet brown and golden bronze in fall. In the winter, the tree loses its leaves.

Harris, E. (2002) Goodbye to Beech? Farewell to Fagus? Quarterly Journal of Forestry96 (2):97.

Myking, T.; Yakovlev, I.; Ersland, G. A. (2011). “Nuclear genetic markers indicate Danish origin of the Norwegian beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) populations established in 500–1,000 AD”. Tree Genetics & Genomes. 7 (3): 587–596.

Laurie, James; Balbi, Adriano (1842-01-01).

Media and Arts
Information about European Beech Trees!

The Beech Tree

by Rose Fyleman

I’d like to have a garden
With a beech tree on the lawn;
The little birds that lived there
Would wake me up at dawn.

And in the summer weather
When all the leaves were green,
I’d sit beneath the beach boughs
And see the sky between.

The Beech-Wood

Andrew Young

When the long, varnished buds of beechPoint out beyond their reach,
And tanned by summer suns
Leaves of black bryony turn bronze,
And gossamer floats bright and wet
From trees that are their own sunset,
Spring, summer, autumn I come here,
And what is there to fear?
And yet I never lose the feeling
That someone close behind is stealing
Or else in front has disappeared;
Though nothing I have seen or heard ,
The fear of what I might have met
Makes me still walk beneath these boughs
With cautious steps as in a haunted house.

from Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, 1998)


Wow! What a great tree!