Sunday, October 25, 2015

Great Georgia Trees: American beech

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Native to the Eastern US and throughout Georgia, the tree known as American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is a great tree to have if the conditions are right. Its smooth, gray bark is one of the most recognized among casual hikers, even if they don’t always know its name. In established woodlands with good moisture, large mature specimens can be found on slopes adjacent to streams and creeks.

American beech is rather shade tolerant which allows it to thrive in woodlands.  A mature tree can reach over 100 feet. The Georgia co-champions easily top that. One of Georgia’s co-champions can be found in Lullwater Conservation Park with a height of 122 feet and a circumference of 149 inches.

Fagus grandifolia nuts

Beeches take years to mature enough to produce beechnuts. Once they do, the small triangular nuts are enjoyed by a variety of wildlife: squirrels, chipmunks, and a variety of birds as well as deer and even bear. 

Beechnuts have nothing to do with the gum sold as Beech-Nut gum, so don’t try chewing them as gum (although they are perfectly edible).

An American beech starts to show its fall colors

As a landscape tree, it is a beautiful addition.  Young trees have a pleasing habit with strong horizontal branching. The foliage is very handsome and, despite supporting over 120 insect species as a host, rarely appears damaged. In fall, the foliage transitions from yellow to gold, hanging onto the branches as long as it can. Young trees often retain their faded leaves through the winter, appearing to be draped in a cloak of old lace.

Winter appearance of a young American beech
Now is a good time to plant trees in Georgia and if you’ve got room for one near a moist woodland edge, consider adding American beech to your landscape. It will probably outlive us, but planting for the future is the best reason to plant.

Note: Over the years many folks have carved messages into soft beech bark. Please refrain from doing so as the carving creates openings for bugs, fungi and diseases to damage the tree.

1 comment: