Fagus grandifolia (American beech)

This glorious, beautiful tree once made up vast, dense forests in eastern North America and the Midwest, but its numbers were decimated as it was cut down in the 19th Century—not for its wood, but because it grows in rich, tillable soil. Now the tree, while far from extinct, is limited to mixed forests, where it is often associated with sugar maple or eastern hemlock. The beech-maple forests of the northern Midwest are among the most beautiful forests on our continent.

Like quaking aspens, American beech trees reproduce both sexually and asexually, and one often sees a proliferation of beech saplings, cloned through the root system of a large, nearby tree, surrounding the original. My friend Ed calls these "sons of beeches."

Many mycorrhizal mushrooms are associated with American beech, including Amanita banningiana, Boletellus pseudochrysenteroides, Boletus atkinsonii, Boletus rubellus, Cantharellus cinnabarinus, Craterellus cinereus, Cortinarius azureus, Cortinarius bolaris, Cortinarius corrugatus, Cortinarius marylandensis, Cortinarius ophiopus, Hygrophorus discoxanthus, Laccaria amethystina, Lactarius gerardii var. fagicola, Russula pulchra, and Tricholoma subaureum. Beech-associated saprobic species include Cerrena unicolor, Climacodon septentrionale, Fomes fomentarius, Hymenoscyphus fructigenus, Mycena crocata, Mycena atkinsoniana, Mycena filiformis, Mycena capillaris, Phlebia incarnata, Pleurotus dryinus, and Pluteus lutescens.


Range of Fagus grandifolia

Fagus grandifolia
American beech has smooth, gray bark, and trunks are reminiscent of elephant legs

Fagus grandifolia
leaves have serrated edges, and are dark green above, light green below


Fagus grandifolia
twigs are olive when very young, then gray, with small leaf scars

Fagus grandifolia
buds in spring

Fagus grandifolia
twisting, exposed "feet" above the roots


Fagus grandifolia
beech nuts are enclosed in 4-sided, spiny burs

Kuo, Michael (December, 2022). Fagus grandifolia (American beech). Retrieved from the website:

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