The "Euro" or European beech tree (Fagus sylvatica) historically has graced many large garden landscapes in both Europe and North America. Better suited to more varied moist soil types and with many leaf forms, it grows 50 to 60 feet tall and 35 to 50 feet wide. Often old, healthy trees grow even larger across USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 7.
The Euro beech's native range extends from central Europe eastward to the Caucasus Mountains.
Three additional naturally occurring forms of the European beech exist. The tree that developed deeply cut leaf blades carries the botanical identity Fagus sylvatica var. laciniata. Variety pendula (weeping beech) encompasses trees with a natural weeping habit, and variety purpurea (copper beech) includes trees with coppery purple-tinted foliage.
A pyramid-shaped tree in its youth, the Euro beech slowly grows and matures to a broadly oval canopied tree with lower branches sweeping and drooping to often touch and root in the soil. The leaves possess a deep glossy green color and become shades of yellow, gold and golden brown in autumn. The trunks and large branches of the European beech display a gray-tan smooth bark with massive knobs and flexing "muscles" resembling massive legs of an elephant or a large dinosaur.
Grow this beech in moist but well-draining soils rich in organic matter. Avoid highly alkaline soils (pH above 8.0). It grows in full sun exposures where it enjoys over eight hours of direct sunlight daily as well as in partially shaded spots in woodlands where it gets no less than four hours of sun in shifting light through the day. Purple-leaved European beeches need more sunlight to retain their color, whereas types with yellow-green color need more shade to prevent leaves from browning on their edges.
Even though the European beech transplants more easily and tends to tolerate more soils than the American beech (Fagus grandifolia), it can succumb to several diseases if soils become too wet or roots become damaged from soil compaction or stressed in overly dry soil. Limb canker, powdery mildew, butt and wood rots and other fungi wreak havoc on this species.
Grow European beech trees in a woodland garden or in a spacious sunny lawn to develop them into massive and impressive solitary specimens. In Europe, these trees planted in straight formal rows and then formally pruned create massive tall hedgerows along roads or property lines.