70628Compared to crape myrtle, sycamore (London plane) and many other more popular trees, the beech, Fagus sylvatica, is much less problematic, and really deserves more respect. Although it can eventually get almost as big as sycamore, it has remarkably complaisant roots. It is neatly deciduous, defoliating only in autumn, without noticeable floral mess. Disease and pests are rare.

Beech is probably unpopular with landscapers because new trees are a bit more demanding than other tree specie are. (Landscapers prefer easier trees.) Until they disperse their roots, they are more likely to desiccate if they do not get watered regularly enough, and more likely to rot if watered too much. They grow somewhat slowly, so need to be pruned more carefully for a high canopy.

Those of us who tend our own gardens do not mind the extra effort for such a distinctive tree. The handsome foliage can be rich green, coppery bronze, darkly purplish or variegated with white or pink that fades to white. A cultivar with sunny yellow new foliage fades to green by summer. Most beeches have spreading branch structure, but some are strictly vertical or sculpturally pendulous.

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10 thoughts on “Beech

  1. Beeches are among my favorite trees, especially in the spring when the sun makes the new leaves glow. I’m working on a design right now for a garden that has the most magnificent 80 year old Purple Beech. The trunk is 4 feet in diameter. I’m using silvery leaved shade plants to compliment the trunk.

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    1. They really are exquisite. Sadly, the only one I work with are the really weird cultivars that do not grow into trees. They are those tall and narrow sorts that look like Italian cypress, or those pendulous sorts that look like weeping cherries. They never amount to anything, and gardeners end up shearing them anyway. When people move, the new people get them removed and replaced with something else.

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    1. They are probably more common in the cooler parts of Australia than they are here. They are more common in eastern North American and Canada, but are not part of the scene in California. We grew a few for a while, but there was very little demand for them.

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  2. I agree, I love this tree. New leaves are exquisite, translucent, moist and velvety. I have a deep purple one in my hedge but I wish I had the space to let it escape and grow.

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    1. They are so rare here, but the few old specimens have proven to be remarkably complaisant to urban landscapes. They do not displaces concrete pavement like the much more common sycamores that were planted as street trees. Yet, they remain uncommon.

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