Beech is a deciduous tree native to Europe, North America and Asia. They have toothy leaves and dense foliage; their bark is smooth and light gray. There are 10 species of beech trees, which are part of the greater family Fagaceae. The most common species are the American and European beech trees.
The American beech is found from New Brunswick to Minnesota and as far south as Texas and Florida. The tree is cultivated for ornamental and commercial purposes; its wood is used for flooring, veneers and furniture. Several varieties exist, including the copper or purple beech, known for its lavender to deep purple leaves, and the Dawyck beech, with gold, green or purple leaves. The American beech, one of the primary trees in Northeaster forests, is a dense tree with rounded foliage.
The European beech is a common forest tree throughout Europe, prevalent from southern Norway and Sweden all the way south to the Mediterranean Sea. The tree is native to England. The fruit of the European beech was once known in England as "buck," According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the county Buckingham is so named because of its thick beech forests. The European beech is identified by its oval, lustrous green leaves. Several varieties are popular ornamental plants, including the weeping beech and the cutleaf beech, so named because of its sharp, deeply lobed leaves.
Other Varieties of Beech
Other species of beech include the Japanese beech, the Japanese blue beech, the Chinese beech, the south Chinese beech, the Taiwan beech, the Oriental beech, the shining beech and the Mexican beech. Many are considered subspecies of the American or European beeches even though they officially are their own species.
The Mexican Beech
The Mexican beech, a close relative of the American beech, is found in northwestern Mexico, in high-altitude cloud forests. Its leaves are smaller than the American beech, but otherwise the trees are quite similar.
The Oriental beech is considered an offshoot of the European beech. It grows from northwest Turkey into Russia, in the Caucasus and Alborz mountains. The Oriental beech grows almost exclusively in mountain forests. Its leaves are thinner than the leaves of the European beech, and are a little lighter in color.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, William Benton, Publisher, 1969
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