Beech – Fagus sylvatica

Tree of the Week

8th May 2019 | Danny

Common Name: Beech

Scientific Name: Fagus Sylvatica

Introduction: Beech is a large deciduous tree that can reach heights of over 40m and develop huge domed crowns.


Leaves: Beech leaves are oval and pointed with a wavy edge. Commonly mistaken for Hornbeam, whose leaves have a more serrated edge. Beech leaves grow up to 10cm in length.

Buds: Buds are smooth, dark red/brown in colour and up to 2cm in length.

Bark: Grey in colour and usually smooth, however, the bark can become rougher.

Form: Beech trees form large rounded canopies on a short trunk. Reaching heights of over 40m and with a huge spread of branches. Dense canopy with large, low sweeping branches.


Monoecious (both male and female flowers can grow on the same tree). Male catkins hang in clusters from the tips of twigs and can be seen April – May. Female flowers grow in pairs on short stalks, surrounded by a protective cup. Once pollinated, this casing hardens and becomes woody. Beech nuts (beechmast) are produced in pairs inside the prickly casing. Beech trees are wind pollinated.

Growth habit

Beech trees are very slow growing and have a poor tolerance to harsh pruning.

Interesting facts

In France, Beech nuts are still roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Beech trees can live for hundreds of years and when coppiced, can live for over 1,000 years

Ecological importance

The foliage provides nutrients for the caterpillars of several moths, and the nuts (masts) are eaten by many birds, squirrels and other rodents. Due to the dense canopy and huge amount of leaf litter produced by these trees, it is difficult for many species to compete with Beech. There are a few species of specialist plants that thrive in Beech woodland, including a variety of Orchids.

Properties of Beech and uses

Beech wood is a favourite of many for use in furniture, flooring and musical instruments. Beech is used a lot for hedging as it provides a dense screen and good cover all year round. The wood is also dense and burns very well.

Associated Pests and Diseases:

Beech trees are vulnerable to many forms of root and butt rot fungi. These include: Armillaria, Meripilus giganteous, Ganoderma aspersum and Ganoderma applanatum ‘The artist’s bracket’.

Styling of Beech/Where to Find Them

Typically found in woodlands or as single trees in parkland, avenues and large gardens.


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Young Beech trees should keep their lower side branches until the crown has matured more as this discourages leading shoots to form and protects the main stem. Pruning, if necessary should be conducted between November (late autumn) and February as any branches that are not needed can be removed completely. When pruning, suckers (shoots growing straight up) and sideway branches that could damage main branches should be removed. It is important to keep your branch collar intact and that pruning cuts larger than 6cm are kept to a minimum. This is because these don’t heal quickly and can make them more susceptible to threats. Additionally, Beech tree pruning often incorporates creating a clear trunk to allow lower branches to develop. For any major pruning, we’d suggest contacting a tree surgeon (find your local one here) to aid you in your queries. 

Growth Rate after Pruning: Pruning helps to control growth and make the tree more stable in high winds.

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