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Fagus

Beech
Fagaceae
Deciduous, Trees

Of the beeches described here, European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is by far the most widely grown. The species differ very little except in leaf details. Capable of growing to 90 ft. tall and 50 ft. wide, but are usually much smaller. Typically have a broad cone shape, with wide, sweeping lower branches that can reach the ground unless pruned off. Smooth gray bark contrasts well with the glossy dark green foliage. In fall, leaves first take on a bronze to red-brown color, then turn brown; many hang on the tree well into winter. Lacy branching pattern and pointed leaf buds provide an attractive winter silhouette. New foliage has a silky sheen. Little three-cornered nuts enclosed in spiny husks are edible, but too small to be of value; they often fail to fill, especially on solitary trees.

Fagus grandifolia (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Fagus grandifolia (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Fagus grandifolia

From eastern North America. Leaves up to 5 in. long are glossy green, turning golden bronze in fall.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Tricolor’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Tricolor’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Fagus sylvatica

Native from central Europe to Caucasus, this beech grows to 90 ft. tall, 60 ft. wide, in a cone shape. Glossy green 4-in. leaves turn russet and bronzy in autumn. Produces 3-cornered edible nuts. Fibrous roots make gardening underneath tricky.

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