In the Native Garden

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Butterflies and Associated Larval Food Plants

June 20, 2009 Walk/Chapter Meeting

Published Articles by Chapter Members

Top 10 Mosses for the Southeastern US

Fagus grandifolia
    ( Fagus        grandifolia )
American Beech, taken on February 8, 2014.
Photo Credit: Mike Strickland

If you take a walk in the woods during the winter months, you will likely notice paper-like, wavy, light brown leaves on a tree that has slender zigzag branches. You have spotted the winter dress of Fagus grandiolia. The bark of American Beech is blue gray and remains thin even into its mature age of over 100 years old. This native was the preferred choice of lovers and friends for carving their initials into as the scaring remained visible throughout the tree's life. Because of its thin bark, it is also very vulnerable to fire damage.

In spring, just after its yellow green leaves appear, the American Beech will produce monoecious (separate male and female flowers) yellowish green flowers. The fruit is a burr, usually containing two nuts which are released in October to November after first frost. The nuts are consumed by a variety of birds and mammals. In colonial times the nuts were harvested to be roasted and eaten, and the leaves and bark were used to make dyes. During the Depression, the nuts were roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute.

In Georgia, American Beech is usually seen within an overstory of conifers and hardwoods in thickets produced by root suckering. If it is in an open area, Fagus grandiolia normally grows 65 to 80 feet tall. An old tree may be surrounded by a ring of young Beech.

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