Mariton: American Beech
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager
American Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) are really remarkable trees (but then I think all native trees are remarkable). Their seeds can germinate in extremely low light, so Beech is a species that can move into old forests. Because their roots sucker, they can form dense stands. Beech leaves aren’t particularly big, but they are thick and numerous. That means that they provide a lot of shade. The shade makes it hard for other trees to get started once they move into a corner of forest. Their seeds (Beech Nuts) are loved by lots of birds including Turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chickadees, ducks and woodpeckers. Mammals like bear, deer, fox, raccoons and squirrels also relish the sweet nuts. The smooth bark is very unique. (And I love that it is a homophone.)
American Beech is one of the deciduous trees that holds its leaves longer than most. Here it is mid-April and the trees are still holding their leaves from last fall. Amazing.
American Beech is the only native member of the Fagus genera, but the Beech Family (Fagaceae) is huge, including the Chestnuts (Castanea), Oaks (Quercus), Chinkapins (Castanopsis), and Tanoaks (Lithocarpus) Genera. Trees in the Beech Family are known for providing for wildlife. The seeds/nuts, flowers, leaves and bark all provide food and shelter for a variety of insects and thus birds and other animals.