Facts About Copper Beech Trees

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The copper beech is an ornamental tree cultivated from the European beech. It is distinguished by its purple leaves, which in some variants turn deep green by the middle of summer. The copper beech is a popular garden tree in England and the United States. It is hardy and can grow in many types of soil.

Copper beech trees shrouded in mist
Copper beech trees shrouded in mist

Seeds

The seeds of the copper beech, like the seeds of other beech trees, are small triangles known as beech nuts. They are an important food source for rodents and birds but are rarely eaten by man due to the high tannin content, which makes them toxic if consumed in large quantities. The nuts were pressed in England in the 19th century to obtain oil.

Beech nuts on a tree
Beech nuts on a tree

Presidential Favorite

Thomas Jefferson planted several copper beech trees at his home in Monticello in Virginia. The trees were ordered from a nursery on two occasions, the second after the first planting failed. One tree in the second planting survived until the 1950s, and the other until the 1970s.

A painting of Thomas Jefferson
A painting of Thomas Jefferson

A Family Affair

The copper beech tree and its relatives belong to the same family as the oaks. They grow in temperate climates all over the world, except for Africa and southern Asia. They can live for up to 200 years.

Beech trees can live for up to 200 years
Beech trees can live for up to 200 years

Poster Tree

The All Posters website (see Resources) offers one of the largest selections of posters of any online store, ranging from reproductions of movie posters to fine art and photography prints. Available alongside posters of Britney Spears sporting a bare midriff and rock legend Alice Cooper is a photo of the copper beech tree at Croft Castle in Herefordshire, England.

Copper beech trees are renowned for their beauty
Copper beech trees are renowned for their beauty

The Color Purple

The copper beech tree owes its purple color to with high anthocyanin levels in the tissues of the leaves. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments in red, purple or blue hues, depending on their pH levels. Their parent class of molecules is called flavonoids.

Leaves of the copper beech tree
Leaves of the copper beech tree

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References

  • "North American Landscape Trees," by Lee Jacobsen, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 1996
  • Garden Web Forum
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