The American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) is one of the easiest trees to identify, in part because of its smooth steel-gray bark but also due to its leaves. It is one of the few deciduous trees in North America that retains some, or most, of its leaves through the winter. The leaves of the beech tree are part of what makes this such a desirable lawn tree where it has room to grow, within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, notes the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Size and Form
Beech trees have leaves measuring from 3 to 5 inches in length, with widths from 1 to 3 inches. This gives the leaf an elliptical shape. You can easily access the foliage, because the branches of the beech tree usually grow so that they touch the ground. Younger beeches have sparse branches. The tree does not start to fill out until it matures to the point that its trunk diameter is greater than 4 inches. The older individuals have a rounded crown of many branches; when the leaves are on it during the spring and summer, they give the tree a full appearance.
Two shades of green highlight an American beech leaf. The upper surface is a darker color, with the green sometimes having a blue tint to it. The undersides of the beech leaf are much lighter green when compared to the upper side. In autumn, the leaves start to change colors, taking on a yellow-green hue or becoming golden brown to nearly bronze.
Even though they are dead by winter, the leaves on both young and old American beech trees can stay on the branches. On the older, larger beech trees, the dead leaves commonly remain on the inner parts of the tree's lower branches. The smaller, immature beech trees often keep all of their leaves. This gives the tree an almost Christmas tree-like appearance when seen against the dull background of leafless trees. Only when the new leaves are about to bud in spring do the old ones give way, falling to the ground.
The serrations along the edges of an American beech leaf are coarse, not fine. The leaf has as many as 15 separate pairs of veins extending out from both sides of the central vein that runs the length of the leaf. Minute tufts of hair develop along the midrib of the leaf, according to the University of Connecticut Plant Database. The stem attaching the leaf to the twig on a beech tree is short, according to the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees: Eastern Region."
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Fagus Grandifolia
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: American Beech
- "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees: Eastern Region"; Elbert L. Little; Revised 2008
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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