Nature’s Notebook

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Photo for species Fagus_grandifolia

Native Americans used this plant medicinal for many ailments. In colonial times, it was used to make water wheels, due to its resistance to decay under water. It is currently used for construction, furniture, toys, cookware, barrels, fuel, dyes, and railroad ties, and in the manufacture of coal tar and creosote. The nuts are eaten by humans, and the fruits are used as a coffee substitute. Many wild animals rely on this tree for food.

Photo Credit:
© William S. Justice, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Systematic Biology, Botany.

Fagus grandifolia

American beech
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 

American beech is a deciduous tree growing 65 to 130 feet tall. Its green, inconspicuous, male and female flowers are separate on the same tree. Male flowers are grouped into spherical clusters, and female flowers are surrounded by a small cupule. The tree is wind-pollinated and begins flowering when it is about 40 years of age.

American beech grows in moderately moist deciduous forests, with deep, rich, well-drained soils, and is very tolerant of shade. It is common in ravines, slopes, small valleys, and bordering streams or springs.

Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NB, NC, NH, NJ, NS, NY, OH, OK, ON, PA, PE, QC, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV
Special Considerations for Observing

If drought seems to be the cause of leaf color or fall for a plant, please make a comment to that effect.

This species has separate male and female flowers. If you know whether the flowers you are observing are male or female (or both), please make a comment to that effect.

Which phenophases should I observe?
Leaves

Do you see...?

Breaking leaf buds
One or more breaking leaf buds are visible on the plant. A leaf bud is considered "breaking" once a green leaf tip is visible at the end of the bud, but before the first leaf from the bud has unfolded to expose the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base.

How many buds are breaking?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Leaves
One or more live, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with leaves? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Increasing leaf size
A majority of leaves on the plant have not yet reached their full size and are still growing larger. Do not include new leaves that continue to emerge at the ends of elongating stems throughout the growing season.

What percentage of full size are most leaves?

Less than 25%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Colored leaves
One or more leaves show some of their typical late-season color, or yellow or brown due to drought or other stresses. Do not include small spots of color due to minor leaf damage, or dieback on branches that have broken. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves that remain on the plant.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with non-green leaf color? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

More...

Falling leaves
One or more leaves are falling or have recently fallen from the plant. More...

Flowers

Do you see...?

Flowers or flower buds
One or more fresh open or unopened flowers or flower buds are visible on the plant. Include flower buds or inflorescences that are swelling or expanding, but do not include those that are tightly closed and not actively growing (dormant). Also do not include wilted or dried flowers. For Fagus grandifolia, the male inflorescence is a catkin, which is initially compact, but eventually grows fuller and fluffier. Female flowers are small and petal-less, emerging from the growing stem at the point where a new leaf is attached.

How many flowers and flower buds are present? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), simply estimate the number of flower heads, spikes or catkins and not the number of individual flowers.

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Open flowers
One or more open, fresh flowers are visible on the plant. Flowers are considered "open" when the reproductive parts (male stamens or female pistils) are visible between or within unfolded or open flower parts (petals, floral tubes or sepals). Do not include wilted or dried flowers. For Fagus grandifolia, the male flowers are open when catkins lengthen and stamens protrude, making the initially compact catkins appear fuller and fluffier. Female flowers are open when the pistils are visible, but will be very difficult to see where they are out of reach.

What percentage of all fresh flowers (buds plus unopened plus open) on the plant are open? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), estimate the percentage of all individual flowers that are open.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

More...

Fruits

Do you see...?

Fruits
One or more fruits are visible on the plant. For Fagus grandifolia, the fruit is a nut covered by a spiny husk (bur) that changes from green to brown or reddish-brown and splits open to expose the nuts. Do not include empty husks that have already dropped both of their nuts.

How many fruits are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Ripe fruits
One or more ripe fruits are visible on the plant. For Fagus grandifolia, a fruit is considered ripe when the husk has turned brown or reddish-brown and has split open to expose the nuts. Do not include empty husks that have already dropped both of their nuts.

What percentage of all fruits (unripe plus ripe) on the plant are ripe?

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Recent fruit or seed drop
One or more mature fruits or seeds have dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit. Do not include obviously immature fruits that have dropped before ripening, such as in a heavy rain or wind, or empty fruits that had long ago dropped all of their seeds but remained on the plant.

How many mature fruits have dropped seeds or have completely dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...