American Beech grows along with Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) as part of the final stage of forest succession. It is a sure indicator that the forest you are in has not been disturbed in a long time if you see American Beech present.
The American Beech wetland indicator status is rated FACU. This means that while the tree is usually found in uplands it may be found in freshwater wetlands on occasion. The American Beech reaches heights of 80 feet though some individuals have been recorded as reaching as high as 120 feet!
Few plants other than American Beech saplings can grow under the dense shade of the American Beech. An exception are Beech Drops (Epifagus virginiana) which is a parasitic plant that lives off of the roots of the tree.
American Beech is easy to recognize in the winter as it is one of the few deciduous trees to retain its leaves. The leaves that remain in the winter time turn to a light tan color as seen in the picture above. Younger American Beech trees are more likely to retain their leaves than older trees. The old leaves fall off in the spring as the new leaves emerge.
American Beech’s smooth gray bark (it is one of the few trees to retain this smooth bark into maturity) makes it a temptation for people to carve messages into. Don’t. Doing so invites the introduction of diseases including beech bark disease among other woes to the tree.
One type of graffiti that is ok to see on American Beech is that of wildlife. The picture above shows an American Black Bear claw print on it. The black bear was probably climbing the tree to obtain beechnuts which are an important food source for wildlife including:
It is thought that one of the reasons the once abundant Passenger Pigeon went extinct is because of the mass clear cutting of the American Beech. Passenger Pigeons were heavily dependent on the beechnut.
You likely will never find an American Beech growing in the urban environment. If you find a tree that looks like a beech in this environment you probably have found the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) which handles the stress and pollution of the urban environment much better.
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