The American beech

The American beech

The Fagus grandifolia is a medium-sized tree originating from the eastern areas of the North American continent: due to the beautiful leaves, which take on different colors with the passing of the seasons, and the particular bark, it should be considered more as an ornamental plant, both as an isolated specimen and as an isolated plant. for creating wonderful hedges.
In the right habitat it grows quite independently: following a few suggestions and with a little patience we will have a good sized specimen with a beautiful expanded silhouette. Its shape will make our garden unique and we will be able to take advantage of the large shaded areas under the wide canopy in summer.

Size, growth and shape

It is widespread in the United States and Canada where it forms large forests with other broad-leaved trees. It has a rather slow growth: in cultivation it does not exceed 15 meters in height, but in nature it does not struggle to reach 35. It usually has an expanded growth habit and the first branches occur very low. Under these conditions the underlying soil is almost always totally devoid of vegetation. For ornamental use these branches are usually eliminated making the space more usable.

Leaves, bark and fruits

Another strength is the coloring of the foliage, alternate and ovate. The upper lamina, during the year, is dark green and shiny with small silvery hairs. In autumn it quickly passes to a beautiful copper red and finally to a lively yellow. There is not always total defoliation in winter, especially in the absence of strong winds and snowfall. The bark makes beech interesting in all seasons; it is gray and smooth, with silvery reflections. Some compare it to an elephant's skin.
Another attraction are the fruits: the beech-nuts. Hedgehog shape, 2 cm long, contain up to three small walnuts. They have various food uses, but they are precious above all because they become an irrepressible call for fauna (especially squirrels and birds).

Land and climate

Cultivation is not difficult, but to obtain results it is necessary to have the right pedoclimatic conditions. In particular, American beech requires acid-soft soils that are very soft and have excellent drainage. At the same time they must be able to keep themselves fresh. In this respect, in our country, all mountain areas and areas near broad-leaved forests are ideal, from 600 up to 1200 meters of altitude.
The best climate is the alpine one, characterized by cool summers and frequent rainfall. These will allow the soil to maintain the right degree of humidity, especially in the more superficial layers (where most of the roots are found). The cold is not a problem: the fagus grandifolia resists even the most rigid temperatures.
We avoid this essence instead in the Center-South, especially near the coasts: the drought climates are absolutely not suited.

Uses of American beech

It is an extremely ornamental tree, but it must be used with judgment. Generally it develops with a single central trunk and with thin lateral branches, which start from a meter above the ground. This last feature is useful for hedge breeding, giving thick barriers even to the base.
For other purposes it is good to intervene and leave at least the first 2 meters of the trunk. Even with these devices, however, it does not prove to be the right plant for tree-lined avenues or parking lots, also because it requires free and rich soil.
It is an excellent choice on the contrary as isolated or for the creation of small woods in large parks or public areas for leisure time.

American beech plant

For the plant we always prefer small trees. The horizontal development of the root system does not allow it to grow for a long time in a vase. The transplantation of adults, with almost certain damage to the hypogean part, will not give good results.
We proceed in the spring after having worked an area of ​​at least 2 meters in diameter and at least 60 cm deep. We incorporate seasoned manure and land of leaves in abundance, especially if our soil is calcareous or clayey. We reiterate repeatedly.


The adult trees, in the right climatic and soil conditions, are almost autonomous. In the first years of the plant it is instead good to follow the growth with frequent irrigations (which keep the area under the foliage cool) and fertilizing with organic soil improvers. Twice a year we distribute a balanced granular product. In case of drought it is very useful to resort to a thick mulch. Pests are not a problem.

American beech wood

American beech wood is almost white and is quite popular on the market for making toys, kitchen tools, flooring and for the production of beer barrels.
In the United States it is also renowned for its water resistance: once it was used for the construction of ship wheels.