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What American beech looks like
Size and shape
- Slow-growing medium tree.
- Reaches 25 metres high.
- Large green oval leaves are 6 to 14 centimetres long.
- Leaves have serrated (jagged) edges.
- Smooth and bluish grey that darkens with age.
- Resembles an elephant’s skin.
- Small yellowish-green flowers emerge in mid to late spring.
- Male and female flowers are separate and pollinated by the wind.
- Orange and triangular with short bristles helping them stick to objects.
- Edible inner nuts are brown.
Where American beech is found
American beech is common across Southern and Central Ontario. Its range extends to the north shore of Georgian Bay.
What you need to know to grow American beech
- Moisture: needs moist, well-drained soil.
- Soil: grows best in rich soils.
- Shade: shade tolerant, meaning it can grow in shade.
- beech bark disease:
- beech scale insects and canker fungus spread rapidly
- together, they cause beech bark disease which deforms the stem and eventually kills the tree
- carving initials in bark injures the tree and makes it more vulnerable to disease
- beech leaf disease: parasitic nematodes may infect the tree and cause severe leaf deformities, which often kills younger trees
- beech bark disease:
Benefits and uses of American beech
American beech trees are host for many insects, including:
- several species of moths and butterflies
They are popular for insect-eating birds.
American beech nuts contain fats and nutrients and are a food source for wildlife, such as:
- game birds
- chipmunks and squirrels
- raccoons and opossums
The wood from American beech trees is used for:
- furniture, cabinetry, cooking utensils and plywood
- musical instruments like pianos and drums
- methanol, acetate and tree tar
- charcoal, railroad ties and pulpwood
- ornamental landscaping
To learn about our research on American beech, visit our science publications catalogue and search for “American beech.”
Fun facts about American beech
- Before they ripen, nuts contain a mild toxin.
- Trees can live up to 200 years.
- New trees can grow from the roots of dead trees.
- The wood is so hard that woodworkers soak the wood to make it easier to work with.