Five Kinds of Beech Trees

Beech trees are deciduous plants that are classified as the Fagus genus and placed in the Fagaceae family. They can be used in the landscape as shade trees. The wood can also be used as lumber or as firewood.

As long as the soil drains properly, beech trees can grow in many different conditions.

The leaves are usually green and may have edges that are toothed. There are also some cultivars that have variegated, yellow or purple leaves. These are considered to be edible.

The flowers on these trees...MORE are monoecious and you will find that both male and female blossoms form on the same plant. These are pollinated by the wind.

They are the source of an edible nut with three angles that is known as the beechnut or beech mast. These are found within a spiky husk.These are edible for both humans and wildlife. You do not want to eat too many at once, however, as they can be mildly toxic in large quantities from the tannins found in the nuts.


  • 01 of 05

    American Beech

    American beech tree
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    • Latin Name: Fagus grandifolia
    • Other Common Names: North American beech, gray beech, red beech, ridge beech, Carolina beech, white beech
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 4-9
    • Height: 40-80'+ tall
    • Exposure: Full sun is best, tolerates some shade
    • Growing profile for the American beech

    This is the only beech species to come naturally from North America. As the Latin name indicates, this has large leaves for the genus. Each one will be up to 5" long. This species can have problems with the beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) and beech bark disease.

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    Copper Beech

    Copper beech
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    • Latin Name: Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea'. You may also see it as Fagus sylvatica 'Atropunicea'.
    • Other Common Names: Purple beech
    • Native to: The species is from Europe
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: Up to 100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

    This is a cultivar of the European beech that has coppery or purple leaves. In the fall, they will lighten up to be shades of red. There is a similar cultivar that is weeping. It goes by the name of 'Purpurea Pendula'. There are also other cultivars with purple leaves like 'Riversii' and 'Spaethiana'.

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    European Beech

    European beech
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    • Latin Name: Fagus sylvatica
    • Other Common Names: Common beech
    • Native to: Europe
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 50-100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade, with full sun being optimal

    This is the most likely beech that you will run into around the world. It has many cultivars including the copper beech, tri-color beech, weeping beeches, the golden beech and dwarf beeches. Several have won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

  • 04 of 05

    Japanese Beech

    Japanese beech
    Toyofumi Mori / Getty Images
    • Latin Name:Fagus crenata
    • Other Common Names: Buna and Siebold's beech
    • Native to: Japan
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 70-225' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun is best, though it can tolerate light shade

    This species is found throughout the forests of Japan. It is used in the art of bonsai.

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  • 05 of 05

    Tri Color Beech

    • Latin Name: Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata'
    • Other Common Names: Roseomarginata European beech, tri-colored European beech
    • Native to: The species is from Europe
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 24-40' tall
    • Exposure: This tree does best in partial shade as too much sun may burn the variegated leaves.
    • Growing profile for the tri-color beech

    This tree is also a cultivar of the European beech. It features variegated leaves that are pink, white and green. This smaller beech is an excellent choice for a specimen tree in the landscape.