Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Coladonato, Milo. 1991. Fagus grandifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of American beech is Fagus
grandifolia (Ehrh.) Little . Some authorities hold that the
southern beeches vary and describe the southern form as F. grandifolia
var. caroliniana (Loud) Fernald & Rehder . The variety F.
grandifolia var. mexicana (Martinez) is found in Mexico .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
American beech is distributed from Cape Brenton Island, Nova Scotia west
to Maine, southern Quebec, southern Ontario, northern Michigan, and
eastern Wisconsin; south to southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri,
northwestern Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas; east to
northern Florida; and northeast to southeastern South Carolina. An
isolated variety (var. mexicana) occurs in the mountains of northeastern
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN KY LA
MA MD ME MI MN MO MS NC NH NJ
NY OH OK PA SC TN TX VT VA WI
WV NS ON PQ MEXICO
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K081 Oak savanna
K083 Cedar glades
K084 Cross timbers
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oaks - sea oats
K093 Great Lakes - fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalacian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K116 Subtropical pine forest.
SAF COVER TYPES :
20 White pine - northern red oak - maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow poplar
58 Yellow poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
108 Red maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
American beech is either a dominant or codominant species in the
northern hardwoods of the Northeast, Lake States, and the Appalachian
Mountains. Common associates include sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red
maple (A. rubrum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American
basswood (Tilia americana), black cherry (Prunus serotina), southern
magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), red
spruce (Picea rubens), hickories (Carya spp.), and oaks (Quercus spp.)
Published classification schemes listing American beech as dominant or
codominant in habitat types (hts) are listed below:
Area Classification Authority
n MI, ne WI forest hts Coffman, Alyanak &
n WI forest hts Kotar & others 1989
n WI, n MI forest hts Kotar 1986
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Beech wood is used to make flooring, furniture, veneer plywood, and
railroad ties. It is especially favored as fuel wood because of its
high density and good burning qualities. Coal tar made from beech wood
is used to protect wood from rotting. The creosote made from beech wood
is used to treat various human and animal disorders [31,41].
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Beech mast is eaten by a variety of birds and mammals, including mice,
squirrels, chipmunks, black bear, deer, foxes, ruffed grouse, ducks, and
Beech is regarded as a poor deer browse. The frequency of its use in
some areas is due to the low availability of more preferable browse .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
American beech provides cover for the Carolina chickadee (Parus
carolinensis) and the black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus) .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Beech grows relatively slowly and has a low tolerance to fire. Its
value as a colonizer is limited [6,21,39].
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Beechnuts are roasted and eaten or used a coffee substitute. The leaves
and bark are used to make dyes .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Even-aged silviculture adversely affects beech production and favors
production of associated hardwoods. Beech seedlings may be overtopped
in clearcuts by less shade-tolerant species such as birches (Betula
spp.) and oaks, which respond vigorously to increased light. Repeated
clearcutting at short intervals may eliminate beech. Shelterwood cuts
allow beech to develop with little competition from more intolerant
Beech is seriously affected by beech bark disease. The saddled is its
most serious defoliator, and the forest tent caterpillar, gypsy moth,
fall cankerworm ruce spanworm (Operophtera bruceata) occasionally cause
heavy damage .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Beech is a large, native, deciduous tree. It normally grows 65 to 80
feet (20-25 m) tall but can can grow up to 130 feet (40 m) and can live
to over 300 years old. The bark is blue gray. The leaves are yellow
green during the growing season. The branches are stout and horizontal,
or ascending, with interlocking leaves forming a dense crown. The root
system is shallow and spreading. The fruit is a bur, usually containing
two nuts [4,41].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Beech begin producing seed when 40 years old and
by 60 years old may produce large quantities. Beech produces seed at 2-
to 8-year intervals. Beech seeds average about 1,600 per pound
(3,500/kg) . Most seeds drop to the ground. A few are carried by
rodents but dispersal is limited. Bluejays may transport seeds several
kilometers . Most of the seeds will germinate in the 1st year; after
that, the seeds lose viability .
Beech seeds germinate from early spring to early summer. Chilling is
required to break dormancy. Germination is good on mineral soil or
leafy litter, but poor on excessively wet sites. Seedlings grow best
under a moderate canopy or in protected small openings where the soil
does not dry out below the depth of the shallow roots .
Vegetative Reproduction: Beech can regenerate by root suckers or by
stump sprouts . Sprouts may develop on the trunk of a tree
immediately below a wound and from the top of stumps. Adventitious buds
develop in callus tissue of the cambial layers of stumps. Sprouts can
also develop from the exposure of the roots to air or elevated
temperatures. Sometimes root sprouts develop when no apparent injury
has occurred .
The advance of beech bark disease, with its resultant mortality of
overstory beech stems, is likely to result in an increase in root
suckering . Beech is more likely to develop by sprouting than by
seedling establishment .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Beech is found at low elevations in the North and relatively high
elevations in the South. Local soil and climatic factors probably
determine whether beech grows at the higher elevations. In the
Adirondack Mountains, low temperatures and wind keep beech below 3,200
feet (975 m) in contrast to the Appalachian Mountains where on the
warmer slopes it grows at elevations up to 6,000 (1,830 m) feet. At
altitudes in the middle of its range, beech is more abundant on the
cooler, moister, northern slopes than on the southern slopes .
Beech is usually found within two principal soil groups: the gray
podzolic (Hapludalf) and the laterite (Acrothox) and is prevalent on
podzols. It is seldom found on limestone soils except in the western
edge of its range. Beech populations are higher on coarse textured, dry
to mesic soils in the northern part of its range [2,41].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
American beech is a climax species that grows slowly underneath an
overstory of conifers or hardwoods. Beech grows faster in canopy
openings and eventually ascends into the overstory [1,8]. In an
old-growth forest in New Hampshire, beech replaced yellow birch and
sugar maple and then was able to maintain itself via root suckering
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Flowering occurs from March to May. Fruiting occurs from September to
October. Seeds are released in October or November after frost [33,42].
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Thin bark renders American beech highly vulnerable to injury by fire. Postfire
colonization is through root suckering .
When fire is absent or of low frequency, beech frequently becomes a
dominant species in mixed deciduous forests . The transition from an
open fire-dominated forest to a closed canopy deciduous forest favors
the beech-magnolia type in the southern portion of beech's range .
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
survivor species; on-site surviving rhizomes
off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire usually top-kills American beech. Mortality of young trees is related
to fire severity: Cool fires kill 40 to 50 percent of the seedlings and
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
Fire wounds may serve as entrance courts for a host of decaying fungi
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Beech trees that survive a fire regenerate by root suckering or stump
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Fire could create favorable conditions for beech production. Fire could
reduce the litter and humus layer, expose roots, or injure the parent
tree, creating conditions for the production of sucker shoots .
SPECIES: Fagus grandifolia
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