European Beech
Fagus sylvatica var.
Family Fagaceae

* Several varieties; all resemble American Beech but smaller in size and with smaller leaves.
* Bark darker than American Beech, leaves more elliptical, with smaller, rounded teeth, 2-4".
* Leaf margins and veins on leaf undersides hairy.
* Height: Most trees are planted in sunny areas and therefore do not reach their full height. Centenarians in the Wellesley area grow up to 70'.

Natural History:
* European beech is planted in the United States primarily as an ornamental tree.
* There are many varieties of Fagus sylvatica, three of which are pictured here. See "Connections" for the names of the varieties.

* "Or shall I rather the sad verse repeat
Which on the beech's bark I lately writ?"
-Virgil, 70-19 B.C.E.

* Because of its soft, smooth bark, the beech is intimately connected with the written (or carved) word. It is believed that the first Sanskrit characters were carved on the bark of Fagus sylvatica. In fact, our word 'book' comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'boc', meaning letter or character, which derives from 'beece', beech.

* "Under yonder beech-tree single on the greensward,
Couched with her arms behind her golden head,
Knees and tresses folded to slip and ripple idly,
Lies my young love sleeping in the shade."
-George Meredith, 1828-1909

* The top photo shows the true European beech, while the three other photos show cultivated varieties that are found on the Wellesley campus. The second photo depicts Fagus sylvatica purpurea, the third shows Fagus sylvatica atropunica, and the bottom photo is of Fagus sylvatica laciniata.


Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008