Content Detail

European beech is a large, graceful tree appropriate for large properties like parks and golf courses. Known for its smooth silvery gray bark, short trunk and a low branching habit.

  • Family (English) Beech and Oak
  • Family (botanic) Fagaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-60 feet
  • Mature width 35-45 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Pyramidal, Round
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Cavity-nesting birds, Game birds, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size & Form:

This tree is dense with an upright oval habit and low sweeping branches on a short trunk. Trees reach 50 to 60 feet high and 35 to 45 feet wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

This tree is native to Europe.

Bark color and texture: 

Bark is smooth gray with an elephant-hide appearance.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves grow in an alternate, simple pattern and are 2 to 5 inches long with shallow teeth.  Its attractive glossy dark green leaves  turn to russet or bronze in fall and this color often persists into winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are inconspicuous. Separate male and female flowers bloom on the same tree.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The edible beechnuts is 3-winged, triangular in shape, and usually has two nuts in a prickly husk.

Plant care:

Grows best in full sun to part shade in well drained soils. Tolerant of higher pH soils than American beech. It does not tolerate wet or compacted soil, is drought sensitive and must be watered well in dry periods. It benefits from a layer of mulch that helps conserve moisture and moderate soil temperature fluctuation. Avoid foot traffic over the root system. Trees are long-lived.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Cankers can be a problem.

Fern-leaved European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’):

This tree has graceful, dark green, cut-leaved foliage which turns a golden brown in fall. It reaches 60 feet high and 50 feet wide and is often confused with ‘Laciniata’.

Dawyck Purple Leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’):

This variety is a narrow tree reaching 30 to 40 feet high and 10 to 12 feet wide with purple foliage.

Upright European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Fastigiata’):

This tree is columnar in form and grows upright reaching 45 feet high and 15 feet wide with dark green leaves.

Red Obelisk European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Red Obelisk’):

This variety has a narrow, columnar habit with purple leaves reaching 35 feet high and 12 feet wide.

River’s Copper beech  (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’):

This purple-leaved selection features large glossy leaves. While the foliage emerges deep purple in spring, it fades to purple-green in summer and finally turns copper in autumn.  It grows 50 to 60 feet high and 45 feet wide.

Tricolor European beech   (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Tricolor’) :  

This cultivar has purple leaves with an irregular rose and pinkish white border. It is smaller than the species  growing 30 feet tall.  Light shade during the heat of the day is needed to keep the light colored leaf edges from burning.

Weeping European beech  (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’): 

This tree has a weeping form with variable shape reaching 40 feet high and 30 feet wide. There is also a weeping purple form.

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