How old do beech trees live


How do I Guess the Age of a Beech Tree? | Home Guides

By Rebekah Pierce Updated December 03, 2020

Behold a beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) just once, and you’re sure to fall in love with its silver-colored bark and elegant appearance. Found in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4-9, the American beech is a popular type of beech tree. Its spreading canopy makes it the perfect candidate for blocking out sunlight while also adding visual interest to a landscape.

Like any other tree, the American beech does not live forever. However, you can easily determine beech tree age by following a few helpful tips.

Tip

You can guess the age of a beech tree by counting its rings or by measuring the circumference of the tree at chest height.

Types of Beech Trees

Beech trees are deciduous plants within the Fagus genus. All types of beech trees have narrow, dense foliage crowns, and many are popular choices for residential shade trees. They are also prized for their uses as lumber and firewood. Most beech trees can live for around 200 years, but many, like the popular American beech, can survive twice that long.

The American beech is the only beech native to North America. According to Cornell University Cooperative Extension, it has elliptical leaves up to 4 inches long along with smooth gray bark and slender twigs. It produces heavy, close-grained wood that is often used for firewood and basketmaking. This tree is not one that you plant for fast growth but rather one that you plant and cherish for generations to come.

Another popular type of beech tree is the European beech (Fagus sylvatica), hardy in zones 4 to 7. It has been naturalized to North America but is native to Europe. There are many popular cultivars of the European beech, including copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) and tri-color beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea tricolor’). Both are hardy in zones 4 to 7.

How Long Beech Trees Live

According to Arbor Day Foundation, the American beech has been a staple in American history for just about as long as the country has been in existence. It was viewed as a sign of fertile soil by early settlers but was often removed so farming could continue. Daniel Boone famously inscribed a beech tree that had a girth of more than 28 feet. When the tree fell in 1916, it was estimated to be 365 years old.

Many beech trees do not live that long. That’s likely not due to a lack of natural ability but rather the tendency for the tree to be cut before it gets that old. Like other hardwood trees, it’s estimated that an American beech can live for up to 400 years, reaching a height of 80 feet and a diameter of more than 3 feet.

Determining Beech Tree Age

One of the easiest methods of determining beech tree age can be done with all types of beech trees as well as other types of hardwood trees. This involves counting the rings. In the summer, a tree grows more slowly, so the wood has darker, smaller cells. When you cut the tree, the layers will appear as alternating rings of light and dark. You can count the dark rings, with each one equaling one year, to determine a beech tree’s age.

However, this method is highly destructive, as you have to cut and kill the tree in order to figure out how old it is. You can also estimate the age of a beech tree by measuring the circumference of the tree at chest height. This is usually done in inches. Divide the number by 3.14 to get its diameter and then multiply by six. You’ll get a rough estimate of the tree’s age with this technique.

References

  • Arbor Day Foundation: American Beech
  • Cornell University Cooperative Extension: Woodland Guidelines for the Control and Management of American Beech

Resources

  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Fagus Grandifolia
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Beech, American

Writer Bio

Rebekah Pierce is a freelance writer in upstate New York. She specializes in producing content and website copy in the home and gardening niches. In addition, she co-owns and manages a small farm, J&R Pierce Family Farm, where she raises chickens, pigs, and sheep.

Five Common Varieties of Beech Trees

By

Vanessa Richins Myers

Vanessa Richins Myers

Vanessa Richins Myers is a seasoned horticulturist, writer, and educator with over 10 years of training and experience as a professional horticulturist and gardener. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture, with an emphasis in landscape design and urban horticulture. She volunteers as a community garden specialist.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

Updated on 03/25/22

Fact checked by

Jessica Wrubel

Fact checked by Jessica Wrubel

Jessica Wrubel has an accomplished background as a writer and copy editor, working for various publications, newspapers and in public libraries assisting with reference, research and special projects. In addition to her journalism experience, she has been educating on health and wellness topics for over 15 years in and outside of the classroom.

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The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Beech trees are deciduous plants that are classified as the Fagus genus and are in the Fagaceae family of plants. With a narrow but dense foliage crown, beech trees are popular choices for residential shade trees, and their wood makes excellent lumber and firewood. Beech trees can grow in many different conditions, provided the soil drains properly. Their leaves are usually green and may have edges that are toothed. There are also some cultivars that have variegated, yellow, or purple leaves—some that are even considered edible.

Beech trees are long-lived specimens that have been known to thrive for 200 to 300 years. In the right conditions, your beech tree will be an excellent shade tree for as long as you live in your home.

Warning

While humans and wildlife can eat the nuts of beech trees, you do not want to eat too many at once, as they can be mildly toxic in large quantities due to tannins within the nuts.

Here are five popular species of beech trees.

  • 01 of 05

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    This is the only beech species that is an original native to North America. As the Latin name grandiflora indicates, the tree has elliptical leaves that are large for the genus, up to 5 inches long. The bark is a medium gray and the canopy forms a dense oval to rounded crown. Fall leaf color is a golden bronze color. In the wild, it often suckers to form dense, brushy thickets. This species can have problems with the beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) and beech bark disease, but it is otherwise a fairly trouble-free tree. The American beech is not particularly tolerant of urban conditions, however; it is not a great choice for inner-city planting, though it can do fine in suburban settings.

    • Native Area: Eastern North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 60 to 80 feet; occasionally to 120 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 02 of 05

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    This is the most common beech tree across the world. It is similar to the American beech in appearance and growth habit but has smaller leaves and bark that is a darker gray. Arriving in North America with European colonists in the 1700s, it is now widely naturalized and can be found in wild settings. The leaves are oval and dark green in color, up to 4 inches long. There are many cultivars available offering many growth forms and different leaf colors, including copper, tri-color, weeping beech, golden beech, and dwarf beech. Like the American beech, the European beech is a fairly trouble-free specimen that makes an excellent shade tree. It can be a better choice if you don't want the very dense shade of the American beech.

    • Native Area: Central Europe
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 50 to 60 feet; occasionally to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade (full sun is optimal)
  • 03 of 05

    Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea' or Fagus sylvatica f. pururea)

    Ursula Sander / Getty Images

    A very popular variety of European beech is the copper beech, usually described as Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea', although some experts regard it as a naturally occurring genetic form rather than a cultivar. This variety has coppery or purple-colored leaves that turn shades of red and copper in the fall. A related cultivar—F. sylvatica f. purpurea 'Pendula'—is a weeping variety. There are also cultivars with leaves that are more purple, including 'Reversii' and 'Spaethiana'. These are slow-growing trees that are sometimes kept closely pruned to serve as wind-blocking hedge plants; they are especially tolerant of windy conditions.

    • Native Area: Central Europe
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 50 to 60 feet; occasionally to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 04 of 05

     

    Michael Nitzschke / Getty Images

    This tree is another popular cultivar of the European beech. It features unusual variegated leaves that are pink, white, and green. This beech is less likely to develop excessive size, making it an excellent shade tree for smaller yards. Foliage is purple with pink margins as it emerges in spring changing to dark bronze-green with pale pink margins in summer, then finally turning bronze-gold in the fall. The 4-inch long leaves have prominent parallel veins. This tree is a good choice for acidic soils, though it will tolerate nearly any soil pH.

    • Native Area: Central Europe
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 25 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade; too much sun may burn the variegated leaves
  • 05 of 05

    Japanese Beech (Fagus crenata)

    Toyofumi Mori / Getty Images

    This species is found throughout the forests of Japan, where it sometimes is the predominant species. It has smooth, silvery-gray bark and a rounded crown. The leaves are oval and a glossy medium-green in color. The foliage turns an attractive shade of yellow in fall. Also known as Buna or Siebold's beech, this tree has a widely variable growth rate and has been known to exceed 200 feet. It is also a frequent specimen in bonsai gardening. In the landscape, this beech casts very dense shade that can make it difficult to grow other plants under its canopy. It prefers well-drained, loamy, or sandy soils.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 70 to 115 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade; has good shade tolerance

Tips

Beech trees can develop a lush, dense canopy, shielding your backyard from harsh sunlight and casting ample shade. While the beech tree is a slow grower, its longevity and sturdiness will outweigh the inconvenience of waiting for it to flourish. If you're interested in beech tree-like trees, you can also consider a variety of oak trees, such as the English oak or turkey oak.

Five Common Varieties of Beech Trees

Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Copper Beech. Yale University.

  2. American Beech: Native American Use. The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Vermont.

  3. American Beech. USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station.

  4. Beech Bark Disease. U.S. Forest Service Research & Development.

  5. Beech Blight Aphid. University of Massachusetts Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program.

photos, description and properties, where the forest beech grows

Botanical name: Forest beech (Fagus sylvatica) or European beech, genus Beech, Beech family.

Homeland of the European beech: Northern hemisphere.

Lighting: photophilous.

Soil: sod-podzolic, podzolic, acidic, calcareous.

Watering: abundant.

Maximum tree height: 50 m.

Average lifespan of a tree: to 500 years.

Planting: seeds.

Description of the forest beech tree and its photo

Large spreading deciduous tree with light gray bark. Reaches up to 50 m in height.

The trunk is columnar, 1.5 m in diameter. Centuries-old trees have a trunk diameter of about 3 m. The crown is ovoid or broadly cylindrical, raised high above the ground.

Branches thin, open. The maximum crown area is 315 square meters. Forest beech begins to bear fruit at the age of 20-40, in plantations from 60-80 years. Gives an increase of about 350 years. In good conditions, lives up to 500 years, sometimes longer. Young shoots are light brown, with whitish lenticels. The bark on young beech trees is gray-brown, on adults it is gray, smooth and thin, which is a hallmark of the tree throughout its life.

The root system is powerful, shallow. There is no clearly defined tap root. The roots of neighboring trees in the forest are often intertwined or fused together. In old individuals, they grow strongly, so they are called "root paws". The growth is updated from the stump at the age of 30-60 years.

Kidneys long-pointed, 1.5 - 3 cm long. The scales are red-brown or light brown, sharp, numerous, pubescent at the apex.

Beech leaves alternate, two rows, petioles pubescent. The shape of the leaves is elliptical, broadly pointed, 4-10 cm long, 2.5-7 cm wide. The color of the leaves is light green, turning yellow in autumn, later turning brown.

Flowers dioecious. Blooms when the leaves open.

The fruit is a trihedral nut with sharp ribs, 1-1.6 cm long, with a thin, brown, shiny shell. Each nut contains 1-2 seeds. Ripens in August-September. Showered from October to November. The usual yield of a beech tree is up to 8 kg of nuts per tree. Abundant yields are repeated after 10-12 years. Beech fruits are considered a valuable food raw material. They are harvested at full maturity. The nut kernel contains fatty oils, nitrogenous substances, vitamin tocopherol, organic acids, starch, sugar, fiber, guaiacol, cresols.

Beech tree: useful properties

Forest beech has long been known for its unique properties. The fruits, leaves and bark of the tree are of great value.

Its nuts are not inferior in taste to cedar nuts, serve as food for forest animals and birds, and are a healthy delicacy for humans. People use processed, fried fruits as food, because they contain a large amount of the potent substance fagin, which is harmful to human health. They cannot be consumed fresh. Beech nut oil is not inferior to olive and almond oil in its value and properties. It has a light yellow hue and is used in confectionery, canning, baking, as well as in medicine, perfumery and various technical industries. Cakes are rich in protein, serve as food for farm animals. Beech leaves contain vitamin K and tannins. For many years they have been used in folk medicine for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.

Hard and dense beech wood is easy to sand and finish. It is made from high quality veneer. In terms of its properties, beech wood is superior to oak wood, therefore it is a fairly demanded raw material with strength, durability and aesthetic appearance. It dries quickly enough, with almost no cracks left. A dry board lends itself well to processing, after which it acquires a perfectly smooth surface. It is used for interior and exterior decoration of premises, the manufacture of musical instruments, plywood, parquet, stairs and much more. In the wood chemical industry, the wood of this tree is used to produce methyl alcohol, acetone and furfural, which are part of medicines. Xelite is also obtained from it - a sugar substitute, tar and creosote, used in construction and medicine.

Where the beech tree grows

Forest beech, the photo of which can be seen on this page, grows in Europe, in Russia, Western Ukraine, Belarus. The tree is unpretentious, grows on any soil, prefers loamy substrates. Warm and moisture-loving, freezes in harsh conditions.

Pests and diseases of the European beech

Under unfavorable conditions, the beech tree is susceptible to fungal diseases. The greatest danger is white marble rot, stem cancer, seedling rot, white peripheral root rot. There are pests that eat, mine leaves, skeletonize, damage the fruits of pests that spoil seedlings and young shoots of plants. The main pests are bark beetles, beetles and fungi, as well as birds and mammals that eat beech bark and leaves.

Use of beech wood

Beech wood is an excellent material for making furniture, it is used in construction, car building and mechanical engineering. Tar is obtained from the forest beech by distillation. Firewood from it is intended for a fire chamber. Beech ash is used in the manufacture of glass. Potash and lye are obtained from it, which are necessary on the farm for washing and cleaning. Beech wood, along with birch, is considered the most affordable raw material for paper production. In some countries, beech chips are needed for smoking sausages. In cosmetology, beech bud extract is used, which is part of anti-aging skin care preparations. Beech tar has found its use in folk medicine for the treatment of skin diseases and rheumatism. The composition of some medicines includes cresol, extracted from the nuts of this plant.

Due to the beautiful shape and color of beech wood, it is also used in landscape design when creating large compositions, in gardens, alleys and recreation parks. The spreading crown with dense planting of trees forms a shade in which you can relax on a hot summer day. Beech lends itself well to pruning, so it is used to create hedges. In a group planting, it is combined with birch, fir, spruce, oak, maple, juniper, mountain ash and lilac. Forest beech in a large open area is a bright accent in a single planting.

Forest beech tree protection

Most of the forests dominated by forest beech have been destroyed by man as a result of his economic activities. Many trees have been cut down to use valuable timber and free up the area for farmland and pastures. The forests where the European beech (forest) is found today are protected by the natural heritage of UNESCO. Artificial plantations with the participation of beech are protected in the territories of national parks and nature reserves. A photo of a beech tree can be viewed in the photo gallery below.

Photo gallery

Beech wood. Description. Where it grows in Russia. What

looks like

Beech is a deciduous tree belonging to the Beech family. The distribution range of the species is outlined by the temperate zone of Europe, Asia and North America. European beech represents huge populations on the territory of modern Europe, often grown for landscaping cities in park areas. The plant can be found high in the mountains, the forest beech develops well at an altitude of up to 2300 m above sea level. The beech tree is not only hardy, it dominates the forests over deciduous representatives of other species.

Contents

  • Botanical information
    • What does a beech fruit look like?
    • Use
  • Growing beech outdoors
    • Care
    • Propagation

Botanical information

A deciduous tree can grow in one place for several centuries.

On different continents, beech forests from different types of trees are common. Forest beech can be found on the European continent, B. large-leaved is more common in North America. Beech trees are endemic to China and Japan, the Chinese variety of the tree is B. Engler, in Japan there are two species - B. Japanese blue and B. jagged.

The beech tree often reaches a height of up to 30 m, the girth of the trunk can exceed 2 m. An adult growing beech tree is a giant tree, its trunks, which are gray in color, are covered with smooth bark. Almost to the very top with a powerful crown, beech stems do not have branches. This tree has such a dense crown that the lower branches are never illuminated by the sun, and therefore, the process of photosynthesis is disrupted. That is why the lower branches gradually die off, leaving the beech trunk bare.

Beech leaves have the shape of an oblong oval, along the edge often decorated with serrations or frequent teeth. The length of the leaves is from 5 to 15 cm, the width often reaches up to 10 cm. The leaves fall off in winter.

Beech giants bloom in spring, the color is loose catkins that appear from the buds at the same time as the leaves. Pollination of flowers occurs with the help of wind, while fruiting may occur late. Single strong specimens bear fruit in 20-40 years, in group plantings - by 60 years.

The beech tree is a long-liver, some individuals reach a respectable age of 400 years and more.

What does a beech fruit look like?

Harvest of beech soil ripens in boxes.

Beech fruits look like a trihedral acorn up to 15 mm in size. Beech nuts are covered with a hard wooden shell, the seeds ripen 2-4 pieces in a common nest box. Fresh beech fruits are suitable for crop propagation.

Use

In Russia, European beech is widely cultivated, which is planted for landscaping urban areas, and is also used to form curly hedges. Culture is often included in group park plantings when forming a green landscape. The dense foliage makes this crop most suitable for planting in industrial areas.

Where beech grows, soils are protected from erosion, silting and flooding. The branched root system of beeches helps to increase soil fertility, saturating the soil layer with organic matter and inorganic compounds.

Beech wood is valuable for the furniture industry, it is used to make curved parts of Viennese chairs, curly backs of sofas and other products. Beech wood is used to make musical instruments, plywood, parquet boards, and finishing veneers. Processing of beech raw materials is used in the manufacture of alcohol and beer.

Beech wood develops a unique pink color over time, but may only be used indoors.

Growing beech outdoors

When planting a beech tree in the garden, it is useful to remember that the plant is able to live in one place for centuries, requiring more and more free area around the trunk every year. Beeches can develop well in partial shade and in the open sun, but for favorable growth, it is necessary to choose places protected from the wind for planting.

In the southern regions, the culture does not feel well in the summer heat, it is useful to water beeches often and spray the crown.

The tree is undemanding to soils, but it is necessary to allocate the wettest area with fertile soil for planting beech seedlings. The culture reacts negatively to soil salinization, prefers fertile loams with the addition of lime.

Care

Spring flowering beech tree.

Beeches are sensitive to temperature changes, the tree feels oppressed when the air temperature drops below -5C. In the northern regions, this crop should not be planted for cultivation in open ground. Considering that the tree reaches a considerable height, it is unrealistic to provide shelter for the trunk for the winter, so beeches should not be grown in the middle lane.

After planting beech seedlings in the open ground, it is necessary to provide young trees with regular watering and spraying. To reduce the growth of weeds and the evaporation of moisture from the near-stem circle, it is worth mulching the soil under the planted trees.

Fertilizer for deciduous trees is applied to tree trunks in early spring and late autumn.

Reproduction

Autumn beech forest.

For reproduction of beech, you can use root shoots, which are formed in abundance near the stumps of felled trees 2-3 years after felling. The shoots are separated with part of the roots, after which the young tree is planted in a permanent place in a well with good fertile soil. The dimensions of the planting hole should correspond to the size of the roots.


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