Herbs & Plants

Fagus grandifolia (American Beech)

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Botanical Name : Fagus grandifolia
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Fagus
Species: F. grandifolia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Common Names : American Beech or North american beech

Habitat: Fagus grandifolia is native to Eastern N. America – New Brunswick to Florida, west to Texas and Ontario. Grows in  Rich uplands and mountain slopes, often forming nearly pure forests. In the south of its range it is also found on the margins of streams and swamps

It is a deciduous tree growing at a slow rate to 20–35 m (66–115 ft) tall, with smooth, silver-gray bark. The leaves are dark green, simple and sparsely-toothed with small teeth, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long (rarely 15 centimetres (5.9 in)), with a short petiole. The winter twigs are distinctive among North American trees, being long and slender (15–20 mm (0.59–0.79 in) by 2–3 mm (0.079–0.12 in)) with two rows of overlapping scales on the buds. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.The fruit is a small, sharply-angled nut, borne in pairs in a soft-spined, four-lobed husk….

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It is hardy to zone 4 and is frost tender and shade-tolerant species, favoring shade more than other trees, commonly found in forests in the final stage of succession. Although sometimes found in pure stands, it is more often associated with Sugar Maple (forming the Beech-Maple climax community), Yellow Birch, and Eastern Hemlock, typically on moist well drained slopes and rich bottomlands. Near its southern limit, it often shares canopy dominance with Southern Magnolia.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Thrives on a light or medium soil, doing well on chalk, but ill-adapted for heavy wet soils. Young trees are very shade tolerant, but are subject to frost damage so are best grown in a woodland position which will protect them. Although very cold hardy, this species requires hotter summers than are normally experienced in Britain so is not usually a success here and is very slow growing. The seeds are dispersed after the first frosts, they are sometimes gathered and sold in local markets in N. America. Good crops are produced every 2 – 3 years in the wild. This species produces suckers and often forms thickets in the wild. Trees have surface-feeding roots and also cast a dense shade, this greatly inhibits the growth of other plants and, especially where a number of the trees are growing together, the ground beneath them is often almost devoid of vegetation.

Seed – the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Inner bark; Leaves; Seed.

Edible Uses: Coffee; Oil.

Young leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb. A very nice mild flavour but the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed – raw or cooked. Small but very sweet and nutritious, it is sold in local markets in Canada and some parts of America. Rich in oil, the seed also contains up to 22% protein. The raw seed should not be eaten in large quantities since it is believed to cause enteritis. It can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with cereal flours in making bread, cakes etc. The germinating seeds can be eaten raw, they are tender, crisp, sweet and nutty. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Inner bark. Dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread

Medicinal Uses:
Pectoral; Skin; Vermifuge.

A decoction of the boiled leaves has been used as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash etc. The nuts have been eaten as a vermifuge. A tea made from the bark has been used in the treatment of lung ailments. It has also been used to procure an abortion when the mother was suffering.

A concoction made of fresh or dried leaves was applied by the pioneers to burns, scalds, and frostbite, Indians steeped a handful of fresh bark in a cup or two of water and used it for skin rashes, particularly those caused by poison ivy.  In Kentucky, beech sap was one ingredient of a syrup compounded to treat tuberculosis.  Decoctions of either the leaves or the bark were administered internally, as a treatment for bladder, kidney, and liver ailments..  A decoction of the root or leaves was believed to cure intermittent fevers, dysentery, and diabetes, while the oil from the nut was given for intestinal worms.

Other Uses:
American Beech is an important tree in forestry.The oil obtained from the seed has been used as a fuel in oil lamps. Wood – strong, hard, heavy, very close grained, not durable, difficult to cure. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot.The wood is heavy, hard, tough and strong, and, until the advent of the modern chainsaw, during lumbering beech trees were often left uncut to grow. As a result, many areas today still have extensive groves of old beeches that would not otherwise occur. Today, the wood is harvested for uses such as flooring, containers, furniture, handles and woodenware.  It makes an excellent charcoal and is used in artwork

Like the European Beech bark, the American Beech bark is an attraction for vandals who carve names, dates, gang symbols, and other material into it. One such tree in Louisville, Kentucky, in what is now the southern part of Iroquois Park, bore the legend “D. Boone kilt a bar” and the year in the late 18th century. This carving was authenticated as early as the mid-19th century, and the tree trunk section is now in the possession of The Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

It is sometimes planted as an ornamental tree, but (even within its native area) much less often than the European Beech; the latter species is faster-growing and somewhat more tolerant of difficult urban sites.

The mast (crop of nuts) from American Beech provides food for numerous species of animals. Among vertebrates alone, these include ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, raccoons, red/gray foxes, white tail deer, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, pheasants, black bears, porcupines, and man. For lepidopteran caterpillars feeding on American Beech, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on beeches. Beech nuts were one of the primary foods of the now-extinct passenger pigeon, and the clearing of beech and oak forests are pointed to as one of the major factors that may have contributed to the bird’s extinction

Known Hazards : Large quantities of the raw seed may be toxic

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.



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