|Foliage, Fagus grandifolia|
|Natural range of Fagus grandifolia|
Fagus grandifolia, commonly known as American Beech or North American beech, is a species of beech tree. This is Latin for: Fagus, Beech; grandi, great; folia, leaves. It is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario in southeastern Canada, west to Wisconsin and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida in the United States. Trees in the southern half of the range are sometimes distinguished as a variety, F. grandifolia var. caroliniana, but this is not considered distinct in the Flora of North America. A related beech native to the mountains of central Mexico is sometimes treated as a subspecies of American Beech, but more often as a distinct species, Fagus mexicana (Mexican Beech). The only Fagus species found in the Western Hemisphere (assuming F. mexicana is treated as a subspecies), F. grandifolia is believed to have spanned the width of the North American continent all the way to the Pacific coast prior to the Pleistocene Ice Age.
At the State University of New York, School of Environmental Science and Forestry there is a "working Group" who have focused on understanding some of the issues related to Fagus grandifolia. They focus on 1) Sharing Ideas, 2) Exchanging Information, 3) Collaborating in Projects, 4) and Participating in Outreach. This group of people encourage anyone interested in supporting the goals articulated here. Link to the American Beech Working Group at SUNY ESF
It is a deciduous tree growing to 20–35 m (66–115 ft) tall, with smooth, silver-gray bark. The leaves are dark green, simple and sparsely-toothed with small teeth, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long (rarely 15 centimetres (5.9 in)), with a short petiole. The winter twigs are distinctive among North American trees, being long and slender (15–20 mm (0.59–0.79 in) by 2–3 mm (0.079–0.12 in)) with two rows of overlapping scales on the buds. The tree is monoecious, with flowers of both sexes on the same tree. The fruit is a small, sharply-angled nut, borne in pairs in a soft-spined, four-lobed husk. It has two ways of reproducing: one is through the usual dispersal of seedlings, and the other is through root sprouts. This is where the tree will have smaller trees growing out of its roots in different locations.
The American Beech is a shade-tolerant species, favoring shade more than other trees, commonly found in forests in the final stage of succession. Ecological succession is essentially the process of forests changing their composition through time, it is a pattern of events often observed on disturbed sites. Although sometimes found in pure stands, it is more often associated with Sugar Maple (forming the Beech-Maple climax community), Yellow Birch, and Eastern Hemlock, typically on moist well drained slopes and rich bottomlands. Near its southern limit, it often shares canopy dominance with Southern Magnolia. American beech is slow-growing and may only attain a height of 13 feet (4 meters) in 20 years. However, open sunlight and rich, moist soil will encourage faster growth.
Beech bark disease has become a major killer of beech trees in the Northeastern United States. This disease occurs when the beech scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga, attacks the bark, creating a wound that is then infected by one of two different species of fungi in the genus Nectria. This causes a canker to develop and the tree is eventually killed.
Beech blight aphids colonize branches of the tree, but without serious harm to otherwise healthy trees. Below these colonies, deposits of sooty mold develop caused by the fungus Scorias spongiosa growing saprophytically on the honeydew the insects exude. This is also harmless to the trees.
American Beech is an important tree in forestry. The wood is heavy, hard, tough and strong, and until the advent of power tools in the 20th century, lumbering beech trees were often left uncut to grow. As a result, many areas today still have extensive groves of old beeches that would not otherwise occur. Today, the wood is harvested for uses such as flooring, containers, furniture, handles and woodenware.
Like the European Beech bark, the American Beech bark is an attraction for vandals who carve names, dates, gang symbols, and other material into it. One such tree in Louisville, Kentucky, in what is now the southern part of Iroquois Park, bore the legend "D. Boone kilt a bar" and the year in the late 18th century. This carving was authenticated as early as the mid-19th century, and the tree trunk section is now in the possession of The Filson Historical Society in Louisville.
It is sometimes planted as an ornamental tree, but (even within its native area) much less often than the European Beech; the latter species is faster-growing and more pollution-tolerant although American Beech can handle hotter climates.
American Beech can take up to 40 years to begin producing seeds. Large crops are produced by 60 years and the tree's total lifespan may be up to 300 years. The fruit is a triangle-shaped shell containing 2-3 nuts inside, but many of them do not fill in, especially on solitary trees. Beech nuts are edible to humans, although too small to be commercially valuable.
The mast (crop of nuts) from American Beech provides food for numerous species of animals. Among vertebrates alone, these include ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, raccoons, red/gray foxes, white-tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, pheasants, black bears, porcupines, and man. For lepidopteran caterpillars feeding on American Beech, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on beeches. Beech nuts were one of the primary foods of the now-extinct passenger pigeon, and the clearing of beech and oak forests are pointed to as one of the major factors that may have contributed to the bird's extinction.
- "Google Translate". Google. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- "ESF Beech Working Group". SUNY ESF. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- Farahat, Emad; Lechowicz, Martin J. (2013). "Functional Ecology of Growth in Seedlings Versus root Sprouts of Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.". Trees 27 (1): 337–340. doi:10.1007/s00468-012-0781-9.
- Horn, Henry S. (1974). "The Ecology of Secondary Succession". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 5: 25–37. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.05.110174.000325.
- Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month
- David Martin, Smooth Bark Compulsion
- Gardening with Native Plants of the South by Sally and Andy Wasowski, p.44
-  Jon M. Conrad, " Open access and extinction of the passenger pigeon in North America", Natural Resource Modeling, Vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 501–519. 2005.
- R.C. Hosie, 1969. Native Trees of Canada. Canadian Forestry Service, Ottawa.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fagus grandifolia.|
- USDA Plants Profile for Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
- efloras.org: Flora of North America — Fagus grandifolia
- efloras.org: Range Map
- Interactive Distribution Map for Fagus grandifolia
- Bioimages.vanderbilt.edu — Fagus grandifolia photo gallery