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Fagus sylvatica - L.

Common Name Beech, European beech, Common Beech
Family Fagaceae
USDA hardiness 4-7
Known Hazards Large quantities of the seed may be toxic[65, 76].
Habitats Grows in woodlands where it is often the dominant species, especially on chalky and soft limestone soils, though sometimes also on well-drained loams and sands[13, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain, Greece, W. Russia and the Crimea.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Fagus sylvatica Beech, European beech, Common Beech

Fagus sylvatica Beech, European beech, Common Beech


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Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Oval.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Fagus sylvatica is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Oil

Young leaves - raw[183]. A very nice mild flavour, they go well in a mixed salad. However, the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used[2, 5, 12, K]. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed - raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 63, 183]. A pleasant sweet flavour, though rather small and fiddly[K]. The seed can also be dried and ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc[12]. The seed is rich in oil. The seed should not be eaten in large quantities because it contains a deleterious principle[65, 238]. The seed contains 17 - 20% of an edible semi-drying oil[4, 7, 8, 57]. This stores well without going rancid and is said to be equal in delicacy to olive oil[183]. It is used as a dressing for salads and also for cooking[238]. The seed residue is poisonous[9, 57]. The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute[2, 63].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antacid  Antipyretic  Antiseptic  Antitussive  Bach  Expectorant  Odontalgic  Skin

The bark is antacid, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, odontalgic[7, 9]. A tar (or creosote), obtained by dry distillation of the branches, is stimulating and antiseptic[4]. It is used internally as a stimulating expectorant and externally as an application to various skin diseases[4, 238]. The pure creosote has been used to give relief from toothache, but it should not be used without expert guidance[7]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Intolerance', 'Criticism' and 'Passing judgements'[209].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Fuel  Hedge  Hedge  Oil  Stuffing  Teeth  Wood

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, it is used as a fuel for lighting, as a lubricant, for polishing wood etc[12, 13, 46, 57, 63]. The seed residue is poisonous[9, 57]. The leaf buds harvested in the winter and dried on the twigs are used as toothpicks[66]. The leaves are gathered in autumn and used as a stuffing material for mattresses etc[115]. Wood - hard, heavy, strong, very durable[13, 46]. It is not suitable for outdoor use[1] and is often attacked by a small beetle[4]. It has a wide range of applications, including furniture, flooring, turnery etc[100]. It makes a very good fuel[6, 66], burning with a lot of heat[4], and yields a charcoal known as 'Carbo Ligni Pulveratus'[46]. The wood has often been used as a source of creosote, tar, methyl alcohol. acetic acid[123]. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form - used as fertilizer or to improve mulch.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pest tolerant, Hedge, Aggressive surface roots possible, Screen, Specimen. Thrives on a light or medium soil, doing well on chalk, but ill-adapted for a heavy wet soil[1, 11]. Prefers a calcareous soil but succeeds in acid soils though it does not make such a fine tree in such a situation[186]. Succeeds in almost any soil and any pH, it is also very tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions so long as there is sufficient rainfall[200]. Established trees are drought tolerant[186]. Very wind tolerant but dislikes salt[200]. Trees are shallow rooted and this might make them less wind resistant[186]. Trees have two growth periods a year, each of about 3 weeks in duration. The first is in spring around the end of April, the second is in summer, around the end of July. Trees are often slow growing and also can be very slow to establish after transplanting. However, in good conditions they are capable of growing up to a metre in a year. Young trees are very shade tolerant, but are subject to frost damage to their flowers and young leaves and so are best grown in a woodland position which will protect them[200]. An important food plant for many caterpillars, it has 64 species of associated insects[24]. Trees have a heavy canopy and cast a dense shade, very few other species can grow in a dense beech wood and on suitable soils it becomes the dominant species[186]. Very intolerant of coppicing, trees producing none or only very weak growth afterwards and this is soon smothered by other plants[186]. Plants are very tolerant of light pruning however and if this is carried out in late summer the plants will retain their dead leaves over winter[29]. There are many named forms selected for their ornamental value. Those forms with purple leaves prefer a position in full sun whilst forms with yellow leaves prefer some shade[188]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 9 through 4. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. A sprouting standard sending up shoots from the base [1-2]. The root pattern is suckering with new plants from underground runners away from the plant [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn[186]. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

   Nov 29 2010 12:00AM

I have collected beechmast and processed it for oil - the yield is not high (some sources suggest 5kg of nuts for 1 litre of oil - this sounds about right to me) but it is a good oil (pale yellow/brown, quite light, not strongly flavoured) and has kept fine for a year in airtight bottles. Collecting beechmast is a bit of a hassle but pair of garden seives (small mesh on bottom, large mesh on top) can cut down on the husks and grit picked up when sweeping up the beechmast. Sadly sorting the good kernels from the bad is a manual job (unless someone has some kind of cyclone separator arrangement)

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