7. AMERICAN BEECH
Fagus grandifolia Ehrhart
American beech has perhaps the widest distribution of any forest tree in the state and for that reason, no doubt, is one of the best known. In the Adirondacks and Catskills, it forms an important part of the hardwood forest, but is almost equally common throughout the rest of the state. Though the tree is of large and stately size, the wood is less valuable than that of many of its associates in the woodlot section of the state, with the result that it has been left standing. Because of its heavy shade, it has also excluded more valuable trees. Beech bark disease, which is a fungus that grows on injuries caused by a scale insect, infects and kills large numbers of beech trees in the northeast. The wood is heavy, hard, strong, tough, and close-gained, and is excellent as fuelwood. It also is used largely in the acid-wood industry, for baskets and crates, and to some extent for furniture.
|Bark - smooth,
close, steel gray in color, easily recognized by this character.
Twigs - slender, zigzag, smooth, shining reddish brown in color becoming gray on older twigs.
Winter buds - terminal bud present, slender, 3/4 inch long, sharp-pointed, covered with light brown scales; lateral buds not much smaller than terminal bud.
Leaves - simple, alternate, 3 to 4 inches long, ovate, coarsely toothed on margin, bristle tipped; at maturity very thin, dull green in color above, pale green beneath.
Fruit - a stalked burr, covered with soft, curving prickles, containing a nut. Burrs - usually in pairs, open up to let the nuts fall in the early autumn, remaining on the tree into the winter. Nut - triangular, pale brown in color, shining, with sweet edible kernel.
Distinguishing features - smooth gray bark; coarse, sharp teeth on leaf margin; "cigar-shaped" buds.