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Plant Description


Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.

En: American beech
Fr: hêtre américain, hêtre à grandes feuilles
Oj: sewe-mins, gaw'nic

Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
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General: a large, deciduous tree, to 25 m tall, with smooth, light gray bark and long, sharply-pointed terminal buds. Twigs are slender and somewhat zig-zag; the buds are narrowly lanceolate-elliptic, about 1.5–2.5 cm long, with several light to reddish brown overlapping scales. Leaf scars are small, hemispherical, with 3 bundle scars.

Leaves: alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, and short-petiolate. The leaf blade is elliptic to ovate, 5–15 cm long, 5–6 cm wide; dark green and glabrous above, paler beneath; leaves covered with long silky hairs when young, but soon glabrate, usually with only the veins remaining hairy, leaf bases tapering (cuneate) to rounded and often oblique; the apex sharply pointed (acuminate); margins with widely spaced coarse teeth. Leaves with 9–14 pairs of veins, with each vein ending in a tooth. Leaves turn yellow, then brown in autumn. Pale dead leaves are usually persistent on young trees throughout much of the winter.

Flowers: unisexual, plants dioecious; male flowers borne in several small, pendulous, dense globose heads. Female flowers occur in pairs in a short erect terminal spike. Sepals 4–8, forming a small involucre that develops into the prickly husk of the fruit; petals lacking; stamens 8–16; pistil with an inferior ovary; flowers appear just after the leaves emerge in spring.

Fruit: 1–3 triangular, shiny brown, edible nuts (beech nuts), to 2.2 cm long, enclosed in a yellowish-brown to reddish-brown woody husk (burr) covered with soft spines, 4–7 mm long.

Habitat and Range: rich, moist woods, well-drained uplands; often with Acer saccharum (sugar maple). The American beech is a temperate eastern North American species that extents north to the southern Algoma District.

Internet Images: See the Fagus grandifolia webpage from the Trees of Wisconsin website. Click on the smaller images to view larger, more detailed photos.

The Fagus grandifolia webpage from the Virginia Tech Dendrology website.

The leaves and twig of Fagus grandifolia, from the Univ. of Wisconsin's Dendrology website.

The Fagus grandifolia webpage from the USDA Silvics of North America website.

Similar Species: Castanea dentata , the American chestnut, is another tree from southern Ontario with coarsly serrate leaves and prickly fruits. This species has its male flowers borne in long, pendulous catkins and longer, narrower leaves than the American beech. The teeth of the leaf margins are sharply pointed and bristle-tipped.

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