|Fagus subsp. var.||Beech|
The leaves of beech trees are entire or sparsely toothed, from 5–15 cm long and 4–10 cm broad. The flowers are small single-sex (monoecious), the female flowers borne in pairs, the male flowers wind-pollinated catkins, produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear. The bark is smooth and light gray. The fruit is a small, sharply three–angled nut 10–15 mm long, borne singly or in pairs in soft-spined husks 1.5–2.5 cm long, known as cupules. The nuts are edible, though bitter (though not nearly as bitter as acorns) with a high tannin content, and are called beechmast. Most beeches have green leaves, but some are red, the fagus silvatica.
Beech grows on a wide range of soil types, acid or basic, provided they are not waterlogged. The tree canopy casts dense shade, and carpets the ground with dense leaf litter, and the ground flora beneath may be sparse.
The southern beeches Nothofagus previously thought closely related to beeches, are now treated as members of a separate family, Nothofagaceae. They are found in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Argentina and Chile (principally Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego).
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Fagus (ancient Latin name). Fagaceae. Beech. Ornamental trees, chiefly grown for their handsome foliage, good habit and the conspicuous color of the bark; also valuable timber trees. There are marked horticultural forms.
Deciduous: winter-buds conspicuous, elongated, acute: lvs. alternate, distichous, dentate or nearly entire, with caducous small stipules: fls. monoecious, with the Ivs.; staminate in slender-peduncled pendulous heads, appearing at the base of the young shoots; perianth 5-7-lobed; stamens 8-13; pistillate with 3 styles, usually 2 in an axillary peduncled involucre: fr. a brown, ovate, triangled nut, 1 or 2 in a prickly, dehiscent involucre. — Eight species occur in the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere. The species of the southern hemisphere, often included under Fagus (as F. betuloides and others), form the genus Nothofagus,which see.
The beeches are tall deciduous hardy trees, of noble, symmetrical habit, with smooth light gray bark and clean dark green foliage, which is rarely attacked by insects or fungi. They are among the most ornamental and beautiful trees for park planting, and attractive at every season, especially in spring, with the young foliage of a tender delicate green, and the graceful, drooping heads of the staminate flowers. All of the eight species known, save one, are in cultivation and differ comparatively little from each other. The American and the European species are especially much alike, but the first has the bark of a lighter color, the head is broader and more roundish, and the leaves less shining, turning clear yellow in fall, while the latter has a more ovate head and shining foliage, which turns reddish brown in fall and remains on the branches almost through the whole winter. It is sometimes used for tall hedges. In Europe, the beech is a very important forest tree, and the hard and very close-grained wood is largely used in the manufacture of different articles and for fuel; but it is not very durable in the soil. The sweet nuts are edible, and in Europe an oil is pressed from them, used for cooking and other purposes.
The beech prefers dryish situations, and grows best in sandy loam and in limestone soil. Propagated by seeds sown in fall where there is no danger of their being eaten by mice, or dried after gathering and kept mixed with dry sand until spring. The young plants should be transplanted every second or third year; otherwise they make long tap-roots, and cannot always be transplanted successfully. The varieties are grafted on seedling stock, usually in the greenhouse in early spring; grafting in the open usually gives not very satisfactory results.
Both in Europe and the eastern United States the beech forms extensive forests. It is today the common hardwood tree of central Europe, particularly in Denmark and Germany, raised as pure growth or mixture. It requires a loamy, preferably calcareous soil, shuns poor sand and swamp, ascends to 3,500 feet in the Alps; prefers north and east exposures, endures much shade, protects and improves the soil, and produces large amounts of wood to the acre. The wood is heavy (specific gravity 0.65 to 0.75) hard, straight-grained, of close texture, not durable. Beech is not used as building lumber, but is extensively used for ordinary wooden ware, furniture, wheelwright and cooperage stock.CH
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Pests and diseases
The beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) is a common pest of beech trees.
10 species of Beech exist.
Fagus crenata - Japanese Beech
Fagus engleriana - Chinese Beech
Fagus grandifolia - American Beech
Fagus hayatae - Taiwan Beech
Fagus japonica - Japanese Blue Beech
Fagus longipetiolata - South Chinese Beech
Fagus lucida - Shining Beech
Fagus mexicana - Mexican Beech or Haya
Fagus orientalis - Oriental Beech
Fagus sylvatica - European Beech
The beech most commonly grown as an ornamental tree is the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica), widely cultivated in North America as well as its native Europe. Many varieties are in cultivation, notably the weeping beech F. sylvatica 'Pendula', several varieties of Copper or purple beech, the fern-leaved beech F. sylvatica 'Asplenifolia', and the tricolour beech F. sylvatica 'roseomarginata'. The strikingly columnar Dawyck beech (F. sylvatica 'Dawyck') occurs in green, gold and purple forms, named after Dawyck Garden in the Scottish Borders, one of the four garden sites of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963
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