One of the showiest plants in winter is American beech (Fagus grandifolia). Those are the trees with coppery leaves that catch the light in the dead of winter as you drive along highways and wooded areas.
Native to Indiana and the eastern U.S., American beech is a slow growing, big tree – 80 feet tall and a spread of 70 feet. The trunk seems short considering the broad, rounded top of the tree.
Besides winter’s coppery leaves, American beech has an attractive silvery gray trunk with thin bark. The thin bark has tempted lovers and others to carve their initials or dates on the trunk. Please don’t do that. Those are permanent tattoos on the bark, and they grow with the tree. The carvings are openings for insects and diseases.
American beech is not for the small yard. The mature size limits its use in urban and many suburban landscapes. Properties with woodlands or large yards make good locations for this beautiful specimen. It does well in full sun to part shade.
Beech nuts are covered with painfully prickly shells. As the shells fall away, the wildlife devours the triangle-shaped nuts inside. The wood is prized for flooring, furniture, constructions and other uses.