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FAGUS sylvatica

Image of Fagus sylvatica

James H. Schutte

Family

Fagaceae

Botanical Name

FAGUS sylvatica

Plant Common Name

European Beech

General Description

Native to much of Europe, this magnificent spreading deciduous tree is best known for its silver-gray bark, which is smooth and “elephantine.” Its glossy, elliptic, wavy-edged leaves are bright green when new, darker in summer, and rich bronze in autumn. Sometimes dry tawny brown leaves cling through winter, particularly on young trees. Inconspicuous flowers in spring are followed by small bristly capsules in late summer and fall, which contain one to three nuts. Although eagerly consumed by wildlife, raw nuts are not edible by humans.

Tough and reliable, European beech performs best in moist, well-drained, acidic to alkaline soil in full sun. Established trees tolerate some drought. Beech trees have shallow broad-reaching roots and dense shade, and most plants grow poorly beneath their canopies. Large forms of this tree are ideal for open park-like settings, and smaller cultivars make lovely specimens for more limited spaces. Amenable to heavy pruning, it also works well as a sheared hedge.

Unlike American beech, European beech is represented by numerous cultivars selected for their distinctive foliage or form. Selections of purple beech (variety purpurea) abound, including 'Riversii', 'Rohanii', and 'Spaethiana'. Also available are weeping, fastigiate, dwarf, contorted, variegated, gold-leaved, and lobed-leaved cultivars.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A3, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    60'-90' / 18.3m - 27.4m

  • Width

    35'-90' / 10.7m - 27.4m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring

  • Native To

    Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Tan, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Lime Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Gold, Copper, Bronze

  • Bark Color

    Gray, Silver, Slate Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Hedges, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No