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TREES & Plants

European Beech

European Beech is a large graceful tree appropriate for large properties like parks.  This species has smooth silvery gray bark and a low branching pattern.

Botanical name: 
Fagus sylvatica
All Common Names: 
European Beech, Common beech
Family (English): 
Beech, Oak
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Alkaline soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
  • Rounded
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
Time of Year: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
More Information: 

Size and Form

50 to 60 feet high and 35 to 45 feet wide; rounded with low branches at maturity

Tree & Plant Care

Does not tolerate wet or compacted soil; drought sensitive and must be watered well in dry periods
Avoid foot trafic over the root system

Disease, pests, and problems

Generally low maintenance, but cankers can be a problem

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe

European beech (Fagus sylvatica)European beech (Fagus sylvatica)photo: John Hagstrom

Bark color and texture 

Bark is smooth gray with an elephant-hide appearance 

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves with shallow teeth; attractive dark green; 2 to 4 inches long
Fall color is russet  or bronze

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; separate male and female flowers on the same tree

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Edible beechnuts, triangular shape; usually two nuts in a prickly husk

Cultivars and their differences 

Fern-leaved European Beech  (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’):  Graceful, lustrous green cut leaves turn golden brown in fall.

River’s Copper Beach  (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’) :    a purple-leaved selection featuring large glossy leaves; foliage emerges deep purple in spring, fades to purple-green in summer and finally turns copper in autumn

Tricolored European Beech   (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Tricolor’) :  This cultivar has purple leaves with an irregular rose and pinkish white border; smaller than the species (30 feet tall).  Light shade during the heat of the day is needed to keep the light colored leaf edges from burning.

Weeping European Beech  (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’)A weeping form with variable shape.