American beech, or North American beech, was a mainstay of the indigenous forests of eastern North America. Today it is a favorite shade tree found on golf courses and in parks. It is a hardwood that is amenable to many different environments and soil conditions with its natural habitat stretching from southern Canada all the way to northern Florida. Its notable characteristics are highlighted by its species name, Grandiflora, with “grandis” meaning large and “forum” meaning leaf. It can be easily identified by its smooth silver bark even after it reaches maturity. It has small flat oval-shaped leaves measuring two by five inches with ridged edges. The American beech does not begin to produce seeds for up to 40 years. In the spring, little male flowers bloom in clusters along the stem of branches, while small, red female flowers bloom at the ends of the branches. After pollination, the female flowers transform into edible beech nuts. The beech produces a spiny, brown husk containing 2-3 nuts inside. However, it only provides large amounts of nuts in the company of a fellow pollinator. While usually a source of food for birds and small mammals, beechnuts are edible by humans. They are not cultivated commercially because of their size. In the fall, the leaves of the beech turn gold and red to make an impressive crown. The American beech is an extremely slow growing tree that is a legacy left from one generation to another. The tree has a typical lifespan of over 200 years and is known to live well over 300 years. The American beech’s wood is known for being heavy and hard, perfect for flooring, furniture, and wooden utensils.
American Beech Tree
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