Fagus sylvatica, commonly called European beech, is a large deciduous tree typically growing to 50-60’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a dense, upright-oval to rounded-spreading crown. It is native to woodlands in central and southern Europe. European colonists brought this tree to America in the mid-1700s and it has been a popular ornamental shade tree since that time. European beech is primarily distinguished from the similar American beech (see Fagus grandifolia) by (a) smaller size, (b) darker gray bark, and (c) shorter leaves that have wavy mostly untoothed margins. It is a low-branched tree, with its trunk ranging from 2-3’ (less frequently 4’) in diameter. Trunks have distinctive bark that is thin, smooth and gray. Ovate to elliptic, lustrous dark green leaves (to 4” long) have wavy mostly toothless margins and prominent parallel veins. Foliage turns golden bronze in fall. Monoecious yellowish green flowers bloom in April-May, the male flowers in drooping, long-stemmed, globular clusters and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to triangular nuts enclosed by spiny bracts. Beechnuts ripen in fall and are edible. Excellent shade tree for large lawns and parks. Zones 4-7
Growing Instructions for the European Beech
The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. 1. Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 2-3 months. 2. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Fill a pot with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand or vermiculite. 3. Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil. 4. Water the container and leave it to drain. 5. Put the pot in a warm, sunny area. 6. Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet. 7. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.