Characteristics of European Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica) in the Wild

Fagus sylvatica
European Beech or Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a deciduous tree belonging to the Fagaceae family. Its distribution spans southern Sweden, northern Sicily, France, southern England, northern Portugal, central Spain, and northwestern Turkey.

In the Balkans, this tree shows some hybridization with the oriental beech, which was given the name Fagus × taurica. In the southern part of the range around the Mediterranean, it grows only in mountain forests, at an altitude of 600-1,800 m asl.

The European Beech is classified as native to southern England. One of the most beautiful European beech forests called the Sonian Forest (Forêt de Soignes / Zoniënwoud) is found in southeastern Brussels, Belgium. Beech is also the dominant tree species in France. The largest Virgin Forest made of beech trees is Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh in Ukraine and Izvoarele Nerei in Semenic-Cheile Carașului National Park, Romania. This habitat is home to Europe’s largest predators (Brown Bear, Gray Wolf, and Lynx). There are many European beech trees over 300 years old at Izvoarele Nerei and 500 years old at Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh.

 
The European Beech Tree has long been popular as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens in temperate regions of the world. For example in the City of Brookline, Massachusetts which has one of the large European Beech Tree forests. The public park, called The Longwood Mall, was planted with European Beech Trees sometime before 1850 making it the oldest European Beech Tree in the United States.

Apart from being a refractive tree, the European Beech is also used as a bonsai tree by bonsai artists around the temperate world.

The following cultivars of European beech have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit:

  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Gold’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’
  • Fagus sylvatica var. heterophylla ‘Aspleniifolia’

Characteristics of European Beech Leaf

Fagus sylvatica Leaf
Source: flickr.com/The Tree Library

The leaves are simple, with all or slightly crenate margins, 5-10 cm long, 3-7 cm wide, and 6-7 veins on each side of the leaf. When crenate, there is one point at each end of the vein, there is never a point between the veins. The shoots are slender, 15-30 mm long, and 2-3 mm wide.

European beech leaves often don’t fall completely in fall, some leaves remain on the tree until spring.

Characteristics of European Beech Flower

Fagus sylvatica Flower
Source: flickr.com/L’herbier en photos

Small flowers, hanging along with the tips of branches, greenish cream or brownish. Its flowers and fruit are especially abundant in the years following a hot, sunny, dry summer. Fruit is 15-20 mm long and 7-10 mm wide, there are two seeds in each fruit and ripens in the fall.

European beech trees can only produce flowers when they are over 10 years old from seed.

Characteristics of European Beech Tree

Fagus sylvatica Tree
Source: flickr.com/The Tree Library

The European beech can grow as a medium to a large tree where it can reach a height of up to 50 meters and a trunk diameter of 3 meters. Trees are of medium age, between 150-200 years, although sometimes up to 300 years. In cultivated forest stands, trees are usually harvested at the age of 80-120 years.

It takes 30 years to reach full maturity. Like most trees, their shape depends on the location, in forest areas, F. sylvatica grows to more than 30 meters, with long branches on the trunk. In urban or non-wildlife locations, European beech grows much shorter between 15-20 meters (rarely 30 meters).

Young European beech trees prefer shade and do poorly in full sun. On the other hand, mature trees prefer full sun and are intolerant of shade or waterlogged soil.

European beech wood is used in the manufacture of wooden floors, stairs, furniture, and construction. It is a good wood to work with because of its smooth texture. However, it is not suitable for use as outdoor wood.

 

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