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- European Beech
Beech trees are tall, round-headed, and wide-spreading. The thin bark is smooth and steel-gray in color. The toothed parallel-veined leaves are shiny green and are borne alternately along the stem. Yellow-green male flowers hang from threadlike stems. The female flowers, usually in pairs on short hairy stems on the same tree, develop into prickly burs enclosing one or two three-sided sweet-flavored nuts. Beeches grow best in sandy loam. They are slow-growing but may live 400 years or more. The shallow spreading root system often sends up suckers that may grow into thickets.
Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests. Though not demanding of its soil type, the European beech has several significant requirements: a humid atmosphere (precipitation well distributed throughout the year and frequent fogs) and well-drained soil (it cannot handle excessive stagnant water). It prefers moderately fertile ground, calcified or lightly acidic, therefore it is found more often on the side of a hill than at the bottom of clayey basin. It tolerates rigorous winter cold, but is sensitive to spring frost.
History and Introduction
European beech is a very popular ornamental tree in parks and large gardens. The town of Brookline, Massachusetts has one of the largest, if not the largest, grove of European beech trees in the United States. The 2.5 acres (1.0 ha) public park, called 'The Longwood Mall', was planted sometime before 1850 qualifying it as the oldest stand of European beeches in the United States.
The European beech can colonize closed forests and out-compete native tree species for light and soil resources, leading to potential invasive dominance in the subcanopy and canopy. As this occurs, the species that depend on native tree species lose their essential food resources and decline.
This is particularly true for insects, which tend to be highly plant-species-specific in terms of food requirements for larvae. At the ecosystem level, a decline in insects results in a decline in birds and other species. This adverse replacement effect is a growing concern as some of native forest species such as White Ash (Fraxinus americana) are decimated or eliminated by introduced insect pests.
New trees can grow from roots of other European beech trees.
The European beech can resprout from roots, so simply cutting down a mature tree will not eliminate the plant or prevent its growth and spread. For very large trees, cutting or girdling the tree followed by painting with a triclopyr-based systemic herbicide can be an effective strategy for removal.
The most effective and easiest solution is the “hack and squirt” method. This involves making a chop into the bark with a hatchet in a downward motion then squirting in herbicide. Calling a professional arborist is also an option as they have access to injection herbicides that can be very effective.
European Beech Leaves
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Identifying Tips! The European Beech is very similar to its American counterpart. The European Beech has shorter, broader, oval- shaped leaves and non-serrated leaf margins. The American Beech has longer leaves with a gentle taper to a long point and distinctly serrated leaf margins.
European Beech Branch
European Beech Tree
European Beech Trunk
Image Attributions: European Beech Leaves - Arend, Flickr | European Beech Branch - Joost J. Bakker, Flickr | European Beech Tree - Plant Image Library, Flickr | European Beech Trunk - Wolfgang Claussen, Pixabay