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): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-60 feet
Mature Width: 
35-45 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
  • Edible fruit
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Cavity-nesting birds
  • Game birds
  • Small mammals
  • Songbirds
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.