American beech
Fagus grandifolia

Secondary Names:

Leaf Type: Deciduous
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

A large tree to 100 feet tall and a stout trunk to 3 feet in diameter, with a regular branching habit and fine-textured twigs that form an oval or rounded crown. The smooth, gray bark is its diagnostic feature.

Range/Site Description:

Occurs in southeast Texas, on rich, well-drained bottomlands along streams and river valleys.


Simple, alternate, 3" to 6" long, oval or ovate in shape, with very straight veins ending in a pointed tooth; leaf margin is coarsely-toothed and mature leaves are somewhat leathery, dark green and shiny on top, paler beneath, turning gold or tan in the fall; some leaves often remain on the lower branches through the winter and the distinctive buds are long, slender, and pointed.


Male and female flowers borne on the same tree, the male in round, fluffy, 1" diameter balls and the female in clusters of two in the axils of the outer leaves.


A pair of brown, three-sided nuts, each 0.5" to 0.75" long, contained within a prickly bur that opens along four seams to release the nuts in the fall. The kernel is sweet and edible, and the fallen fruit, known as mast, is a favorite wildlife food.


Tight, thin, and gray throughout the tree's life, sometimes with dark blotches, imperfections, or carved markings left by people, such as initials, dates, or symbols.


Hard, strong, and tough, though it will not last long on exposure to weather or in the soil. The wood is used for furniture, flooring, boxes, crates, tool handles, and wooden toys.

Similar Species:

Chinkapin (Castanea pumila) is a shrubby relative of the American chestnut with longer, toothed leaves and a larger nut cluster.

Interesting Facts:

Many people injur these trees by carving a name, initials, a heart sign, or other symbol into the smooth, gray bark, that can remain for many years. Noted American frontiersman Daniel Boone may have used such a canvas to record his exploits, such as the tree in what is now Washington County, Tennessee which reads, "D. Boon Cilled a. Bar [killed a bear] on [this] tree in the year 1760."

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