The American Beech Fagus grandifolia is a species of beech native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario in southeastern Canada, west to Wisconsin and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida in the United States. Trees in the southern half of the range are sometimes distinguished as a variety, F. grandifolia var. caroliniana, but this is not considered distinct in the Flora of North America. A related beech native to the mountains of central Mexico is sometimes treated as a subspecies of American Beech, but more often as a distinct species, Mexican Beech Fagus mexicana.
| |- | |- | |} It is a deciduous tree growing to 20-35 m tall, with smooth, silvery-gray bark. The leaves are dark green, simple and sparsely-toothed with small teeth, 6-12 cm long (rarely 15 cm), with a short petiole. The winter twigs are distinctive among North American trees, being long and slender (15-20 mm by 2-3 mm) with two rows of overlapping scales on the buds. The tree is monoecious, with flowers of both sexes on the same tree. The fruit is a small, sharply-angled nut, borne in pairs in a soft-spined, four-lobed husk.
The American Beech is a shade-tolerant species, favoring the shade more than other trees, commonly found in forests in the final stage of succession. Although sometimes found in pure stands, it is more often associated with Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, and Eastern Hemlock, typically on moist well drained slopes and rich bottomlands. Near its southern limit, it often shares canopy dominance with Southern Magnolia.
Beech Bark Disease has become a major killer of Beeches in the Northeastern United States.
It is sometimes planted as an ornamental tree, but (even within its native area) much less often than the European Beech; the latter species is faster-growing and somewhat more tolerant of difficult urban sites.
Like the European Beech bark, the American Beech bark is an attraction for vandals who carve names, dates, and other material into it. One such tree in Louisville, Kentucky, in what is now the southern part of Iroquois Park, bore the legend "D. Boone kilt a bar" and the year in the late 1700s. This carving was authenticated as early as the mid-1800s, and the tree trunk section is now in the possession of The Filson Historical Society in Louisville.
The American Beech also provides food for numerous species of animals. Among vertebrates alone, these include ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, raccoons, red/gray foxes, white tail deer, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, pheasants, black bears, and porcupines. For lepidopteran caterpillars feeding on American Beech, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on beeches.