The American beech is one of the premiere shade trees of its range and one that you can add to your landscape if you have the room to grow it. The tree has many interesting features that make it such an attractive species for multiple settings. American beech is a tree well known to the early settlers, who used the excellent wood the tree produces for such items as barrels, furniture and later on, railroad ties. It grows naturally throughout much of the eastern United States.
American beech trees grow to 60 to 80 feet in forest settings but the tree will not attain such heights if grown by itself in the open. Under such circumstances, a beech will tend to be more rounded, shorter and develop more branches that spread out from the trunk. The trunk is often as wide as 3 feet, with some of the lower branches on a beech having a large girth as well.
The leaves of an American beech are long at about 6 inches and they are oval, being 3 inches wide in their middles. They have distinctly serrated edges and are a dark green in the summer months before changing to a bronze shade in the fall. Look at a beech in the winter and you will notice many of its leaves are still on the tree. The leaves finally fall off in time for new ones to replace them in the spring.
American beech is a tree that can boast that its trunk is one of its greatest assets. The bark is unusually smooth, grayish and as the tree matures, it maintains its smooth texture. The beech tree produces beechnuts enclosed in prickly burs that split into four separate parts as the nut ripens in the fall to disclose two triangular half-inch-long brown nuts. The nuts contain lots of oil and are one of the favorite of mammals such as black bears, deer, grouse, foxes, blue jays, squirrels and chipmunks, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry website.
Plant several beech trees near each other and you will create a grove that will give you shade for generations on your land. The young beeches do fine in the shade as well as out in the full sun. Moist and well-drained areas of your property are the best settings for this species. Grow beeches either from the rooted cutting or from the seeds.
Some things to consider about an American beech include the fact that the dense shade it creates makes it next to impossible for anything to grow under the tree. Expect bare areas beneath your beech when it gets older. The Floridata website suggests spreading pine mulch around the base to enhance the appearance. Beech branches on the lower part of the trunk often wind up touching the ground. Prune them back if this is undesirable for your landscaping tastes. Control the multiple suckers the tree produces from its spreading roots by simply cutting them down at their bases.