Fagus sylvatica
Common name: 
European Beech
FA-gus sil-VAT-i-ka
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Deciduous tree, 50-75 ft (15-23 m) tall and 40-60 ft (12-18 m) spread, pyramidal to oval, dense.  Bark smooth gray, developing an elephant hide appearance on old trunks.  Buds narrow, long (2-2.5 cm), pointed.  Leaves simple, alternate, 5-10 cm long, usually entire (silky and fringed with hairs [ciliate] when young), undulate, 5-9 vein pairs (F. grandifolia has 9-14 pair), acute apex, lustrous dark green above, light green beneath, glabrous at maturity, silky, ciliate when young; petiole 0.5-1 cm long, downy.  Flowers open as leaves are expanding, male and female types on the same tree, male (staminate, pollen) in greenish-yellow, ball-like heads on long stalks, female (pistilate, seed) usually in reddish-brown, 2-flowered clusters on short stalks.  May not flower until 30-80 years old.  Fruit is about 2 cm long, with a light brown to reddish bristly husk, which opens into 4 parts and usually contains a pair of triangular, brown nuts, each about 1 cm long, edible, "beechnuts".
  • Best in full sun but will withstand part shade.  More tolerant of soils than F. grandifolia, otherwise similar requirements.  Withstands pruning so well it can be used to form a very narrow yet tall hedge or windbreak (Hellyer, 1982).
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4       Native to Europe, long cultivated and a number of selections available, including:
    • 'Asplenifolia'  (Fernleaf or Cutleaf European Beech)  -  dense growth, leaves green but dissected, offering a fern-like appearance
    • 'Atropunicea'  (Purple Beech)  (syn. 'Purpurea')  -  apparently the original purple leaf beech.
    • 'Cockelshell'  (Cockleshell Beech)  -   slow growing, somewhat columnar form, glossy, round green leaves.
    • 'Dawyck Gold'  (Dawyck Gold European Beech)  -  leaves golden at first, bright green in summer.
    • 'Dawyck Purple' (Purple Columnar Beech)  -  purple leaf form, narrow habit
    • 'Fastigiata' (Dawyck Beech) (syn.? 'Dawyck)  -  the original 'Dawyck' beech is rigidly columnar without pruning.  Confusion at to whether 'Fastigiata' in commerce refers only to the 'Dawyck' beech.
    • 'Milonensis'  (Milton European Beech)  -  weeping form, green leaves.
    • 'Pendula'  (Weeping Green Beech) (syn. F. s. f. pendula)  -  green leaves and pendulous branches, variable tree forms, some broad, mushroom-shaped, and other rather narrow and tall ("fountain-like").
    • 'Purple Fountain' (Purple Fountain European Beech)  -  purple leaves, tree narrowly upright with a central leader; a seedling of 'Purple Pendula'.
    • 'Purpurea' (Purpleleaf European Beech)  -  leaves are very purple at first but they become more green during the growing season.
    • 'Purpurea Nana' (Dwarf Purpleleaf European Beech)  -  dwarf, compace, oval form, intense purple leaves
    • 'Purpurea Pendula'  (Weeping Purple Beech)  -  purple leaves, slow growing, mushroom-shaped shrub.
    • 'Red Obelisk'  (Red Obelisk European Beech) (syn. 'Rohan Obelisk')  -  dark purple dissected leaves, pyramidal-columnar form.
    • 'Riversii'  (Rivers Purple Beech)  -  deep purple leaves, glossy, large.  A common purple leaf selection.
    • 'Rohanii'  (Purple Sawtooth European Beech)  -  bronzy-purple leaves in spring, shallow rounded teeth, tree relatively narrow.
    • 'Rotundifolia' (Roundleaf European Beech)  -  leaves are distinctly rounded, glossy green and densely arranged on branches.
    • 'Spaethiana'  (Spaeth European Beech or Blood Beech)  -  somewhat similar to 'Riversii', leaves darker purple, later to emerge and to drop, tree narrower and smaller.
    • 'Swat Magret'  (Swat Magret European Beech)  -  large glossy purple leaves, turn russet to bronze.
    • 'Tricolor'  (Tricolor European Beech) (syn.? 'Roseo-marginata')  -  purple leaf forms with irregular rose and pinkish boarders, the two selections are similar or even identical.
    • 'Zlatia'  (Zlatia European Beech)  -  new leaves yellowing fading to green in summer.
  • sylvatica: of the woods
  • Oregon State Univ. campus: several trees on the north side of Waldo Hall.
Click image to enlarge
  • plant habit

    plant habit

  • plant habit, multi-stemmed shrub

    plant habit, multi-stemmed shrub

  • grown as a hedge

    grown as a hedge

  • leaves


  • leaf


  • leaves, comparison

    leaves, comparison

  • leaf and margin, comparison

    leaf and margin, comparison

  • male and female flowers

    male and female flowers

  • leaves, fruit and buds

    leaves, fruit and buds

  • leafy twig and fruit

    leafy twig and fruit

  • branches, fall

    branches, fall

  • leaves, fall

    leaves, fall

  • fruit at seed drop, fall

    fruit at seed drop, fall

  • plant habit,winter; trunk, bark

    plant habit,winter; trunk, bark

  • winter buds, comparison

    winter buds, comparison

  • winter bud

    winter bud