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

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Zone
Zones A3, 2B, 3-9, 14-21, 32-41
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Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Fagus sylvatica

European Beech
Fagaceae
Deciduous, Trees

FAGUS

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 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.

‘Aspleniifolia’

Robust, spreading tree (to 50–80 ft. tall, 40–45 ft. wide), with delicate foliage: narrow leaves are deeply lobed or cut nearly to the midrib.

‘Pendula’

Irregular, spreading form. Long, weeping branches reach to the ground. Without staking to establish a vertical trunk, it will grow wide rather than high. Glossy green leaves.

‘Purpurea Pendula’

Usually grows to no larger than 10 ft. tall and wide; may need staking to maintain upright growth. Splendid container plant.

‘Purpurea Tricolor’ (‘Roseomarginata’)

Upright, oval tree grows to 30 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide. Purple leaves are edged and striped in rose-pink and white.

‘Riversii’

The most widely sold of the Atropurpurea group, all of which have purple leaves. Grows to 50–60 ft. tall, 35–45 ft. wide. Deep reddish or purple leaves. Good in containers. Seedlings of copper beech are usually bronzy purple, turning bronzy green in summer.

‘Rohanii’

Leaves with wavy scalloped edges are brownish purple maturing to dark green; unimpressive fall color (reddish or purplish brown).

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