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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > American Beech

American Beech

(Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.)



American Beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) Beech is found throughout the state, however, it grows best in moist mountain coves. Beech is widely found scattered with oaks and hickories on rich, well-drained bottoms. In the mountains, it sometimes grows in dense, unmixed stands or in association with sugar maple, yellow birch and other hardwoods. The American beech has oblong-ovate pointed leaves 2 to 6 inches long that are mostly grouped toward the ends of the branches on short branchlets. Leaf margins have small teeth that curve inward. Leaves turn bright yellow in autumn, and later turn light tan. The leaves often remain on the tree until spring. The distinctive buds are 3/4 to 1 inch long, slender and sharp pointed. Twigs are slender and zigzagged. The edible nuts are triangular in shape and about 3/4 inch long. They are attached in twos and threes in prickly husks that often remain on the tree after the nuts have fallen (after first frost, September to November). The nuts are an excellent food for many wild birds and animals, but good seed crops occur erratically. The American beech tree generally grows to about 60 to 80 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The crown is broad and rounded. The trunk usually is short; its bark is light gray and very smooth. People frequently scar this tree by carving letters and words in its bark. The wood of the beech is very hard, strong and tough, though it will not last long if exposed to weather or in the soil. The wood is used to some extent for furniture, flooring, carpenters' tools, novelty wares and food containers. It also has a high fuel value. American beech is an extremely important source of mast (food) for a wide variety of wildlife.

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