American beech

American beech, Fagus grandifolia

Beech trees are in the same family (Fagaceae) as oaks and chestnuts. The American beech is the only beech native to North America. It has distinctive smooth, steel-grey bark. The alternate simple  leaves have a pointed tip and have serrations on the margins. They are usually a golden bronze in the fall and may not be abscissed, or shed during the winter. This is particularly true for young trees, making them easy to find. The buds for next year’s leaves are slender, pointed and reddish-brown and present above where last year’s leaf was attached to the branch. Beeches grow slowly if in the shade and more rapidly in partial to full sun where they may reach a height of 60-80 feet or more.

Beech trees are monoecious, that is they have both male and female parts on the same treel They reproduce by several mechanisms, most often by sending up shoots or suckers from the roots.Male and female flowers differ, the male clusters or catkins that are typical of plants in the order Fagales (beeches, chestnuts, oaks, walnuts, hickories, birches, and hornbeams). They are not particularly showy and appear as the leaves begin to emerge. The female flowers are cross-pollinated by the wind. The fruits have a prickely outer husk that, when removed, exposes two or three three-sided nuts that are rich in protein and fat making them a favorite of wildlife. Beeches also support insects.  The wood has multiple uses and makes tool handles and toys.

In the John Bartram Arboretum two small beech trees are found in the Woods at 4 near the huge swamp white oak.

In Ohio, there is an increasing concern about beech leaf disease, associated with the round worm or nematode Litylenchus crenatae mccannii.  This parasite was first detected in 2012, it causes striping between the lateral veins in the spring. The trees often die within five years of infection. The Holden Arboretum and the Cleveland MetroParks, among many other agencies and organizations, are working on this issue. Other diseases may also affect beeches.

kendal beech

This American beech is located in the woods at parking area 4 next to parking area 4 adjacent to the dog park. The brown leaves from this young tree remain attached during the winter making it easier to find. The trunk of the massive swamp white oak is seen on the left.

bacon arbor

This European Weeping Beech (Fagus grandifolia 'Pendula') was planted next to Hall Auditorium on the Oberlin College campus in 1954. It forms what is known as Bacon Arbor.