American Beech

Fagus grandifolia

Description & Overview

American beech is an aristocrat of the forest! Large, stately tree with light gray, smooth bark that can resemble an elephants hide. Edible nuts are attractive to most wildlife and are produced at 2-8 year intervals. Slow growing. Climax forest tree.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 60-75 feet
Mature Spread: 55-65 feet
Growth Rate: Very Slow
Growth Form: Broadly oval canopy. May sucker with age forming a thicket.
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Best performance on organically rich (acidic) loamy soils. Intolerant of flooding during growing season.
Flower: Insignificant, monoecious
Bloom Period: May
Foliage: Dark green
Fall Color: Golden-Bronze
Fruit Notes: Nut, ripens between September and November. Substantial production typically begins at 40 years of age.

Suggested Uses:

Specimen Tree. Replacement tree in shady sites.

Salable #5 RootMaker Containers. Pictures taken mid-June.

Left: #5 RootMaker container | Middle: Characteristic bark | Right: Stunning fall color

Wildlife Value:

Nuts are enjoyed by many vertebrate species, including ruffed grouse, turkey, raccoon, fox, deer, rabbit, squirrel, opossum, pheasant, black bear, and porcupine. Food plant for many Lepidoptera larvae, like Nymphalidae butterflies and Io moths.

Maintenance Tips:

Prune for structure during dormant season. Thin bark susceptible to mechanical/animal damage. Protect during winter months with tree guard or mesh fencing.

We invite you to check out the Arborist For Hire lookup at the Wisconsin Arborist Association website to find an ISA Certified Arborist near you.


Intolerant of Salt, Pollution, and Compacted Soils.

Beech Bark Disease, Beech Scale, Bleeding Canker, Powdery Mildew, Sooty Mold, Deer rub

Leaf Lore:

Beech trees are not for the impatient – it will take many, many years to reach their mature height of 60+ feet, but they make a lovely addition to the yard with smooth, gray, often mottled bark, giving the trees a stately appearance even in winter. And not everyone has the site for a beech. They like rich soils with lots of organic matter, and need protection from the elements, so if your yard is very windy, use the house or other trees as a wind-break.

It takes about 40 years for a beech tree to produce nuts. The nut is encased in a burred husk that pops open into four sections to reveal the meat inside (if you own a beech tree, you know not to walk bare foot around lest you get a husk stuck in your flesh). The scientific name, Fagus, is Latin for “to eat” because so many creatures of the forest rely on the high fat and protein content in their diets.

The wood is harvested for flooring, containers, furniture, and wooden ware.

Companion Plants:

Wisconsin forest associates include Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple, and Yellow Birch.

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