The American beech is one of the most distinctive and beautiful of the North American hardwood trees. It is a large, deciduous tree best known for its smooth, gray, elephantine bark that people can’t resist carving their initials into (sadly). When mature, it develops a shallow, spreading root system and broad canopy. Both are so dense it is difficult to successfully grow shade-loving annuals and perennials beneath. Native populations inhabit forests across the eastern half of North America, from Nova Scotia to Texas. The largest specimens on record exist in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys but populations are also common at higher elevations—particularly in the Appalachian Mountains.
Beech leaves are simple and oblong with fine teeth and even, straight leaf veins. They are glossy when they first unfurl in spring and in fall turn warm hues of russet tan and gold. The dry foliage usually persists on the lower branches into winter. This species is monoecious, which means each tree bears separate male and female flowers. The pollen-producing male flowers are small, greenish tan, pendulous and produced in clusters of one or two. The slightly spiny female flowers come in clusters of two or four and develop into beechnuts by fall. The seeds within the nuts are sweet, edible and valuable to wildlife.
This beech grows well in full sun to partial shade and withstands many soil types as long as they are fertile and moist with average to good drainage. It does not grow well in containers and transplants poorly, so plant when small. Extreme soil compaction at the rootzone will slowly diminish and kill this tree, so be sure it's not planted where cars drive or pedestrians regularly tread. Though relatively slow-growing, the American beech is very long-lived and very desirable when mature. Plant it in large lawns, parks and natural areas where it can grow and thrive as a noble specimen for years to come.
The American beech is the larval food source for the early hairstreak butterfly (Erora laeta). Native Americans have long valued its nuts for food and bark and leaves for medicinal purposes. (source: learn2grow.com)
Genus - Fagus
Species - Grandifolia
Variety - Americana
Common name - American Beech
Germination rate - 80%
Pre-Treatment - Required
Plant type - Tree
Vegetation type - Deciduous
Hardiness zones - 4 - 9
Exposure - Full Sun
Height - 70'-80' / 20 - 24 m
Spread - 60'-80' / 18 - 24 m
Growth rate - Slow
Bloom season - Spring
Leaf / Flower color - Green, Dark Green / Yellow Green, Tan
Soil PH - Acidic, Neutral
Soil type - Clay, Loam, Sand
Water requirements - Average Water
Landscape uses - Feature Plant, Shade Trees
1. Seed should be soaked in pure clean water for 24 hours, then placed in pots of sterilized growing medium and refrigerated (stratified) (+2C) for 9-12 weeks.
2. Plant the beechnut at a depth of one and a half times its length. Firm the compost. Germinate at room temperature.
1. Poke holes in the bottom of a plastic container or an empty milk carton and fill the container with a mixture of compost and coarse sand.
2. Plant the beechnut at a depth of one and a half times its length. Firm the compost.
3. Leave the potted nuts outside over the winter so they get the proper cold treatment. Place them in a shady place against the wall of the house. Lay small gauge chicken wire over the top of the containers to protect the germinating nuts from squirrels and rodents.
Keep young trees moist but not overwatered. Plant the young trees when they are 10 to 12 inches tall. Loosen the soil in an area much larger than the actual root ball and amend it with compost. This will ensure that the roots can easily penetrate the surrounding soil. Give each tree plenty of room.
Weed around young trees regularly.
Put down a layer of mulch such as grass clippings, pine needles or bark chips to conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds.
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