Beech - Fagus sp.
This massive tree will slowly reach a height and spread of 50 or more
feet. Forest grown trees reach up to 120 feet. The tree is naturally
low-branched with attractive glossy green leaves providing deep, inviting
shade. Little grows in the dense shade of a Beech tree but if low branches
are left on the tree no ground cover or grass is needed. In the fall, the
leaves turn bronze but weather to a light tan color. Some leaves are held
late into the winter if not blown off by the wind and the thin, smooth,
silvery-gray bark is quite ornamental. The bark looks like elephant skin
on older specimens. The four tiny nuts in each spiny bur of this American
native are much prized by birds and various mammals, including man. The
wood is almost white and is used most often in toys, cookware, furniture
and for barrels which age beer. The tree is very resistant to decay under
water. The wood is
also used for tool handles, chairs, cuttings boards, and for making
The beech genera is a small one, comprised of about a
dozen species. They have smooth, pale gray bark, and ovate leaves which
look similar to those of the hornbeam. The most distinctive feature of the
beech is its unmistakable cigar-shaped buds. These buds are rather tender,
and beech does not produce secondary buds. Nature's way of protecting
these buds is for the beech to retain its dead leaves throughout winter.
For this reason - and the fact that they make for an interesting winter
bonsai - the beech's dried leaves should not be removed from the tree.
Many lovely and colorful cultivars of beech are becoming available and
should gain in popularity in the bonsai world.
Lighting: Full sun, but
semi-shade in midsummer.
Temperature: The American beech is the most hardy, the
Japanese white beech the least. All beeches can benefit from winter
protection in their early years.
especially during hot weather, to prevent the edges of the leaves from
drying out. Reduce watering in winter. Appreciates misting. If F.
sylvatica is watered especially well in late June to early August, it may
have a second growth sprut.
Feeding: Do not feed
for the first month after bud burst. Then feed every two weeks until the
end of summer. increasing feeding for F. sylvatica in late June-early
August encourages the development of a second growth spurt.
Pruning and wiring:
Leaf pruning every second year in late spring is important to reduce the
size of the large leaves. It is safer not to defoliate the beech
completely, or in the same year that it has been repotted. Prune new
shoots from 3-5 nodes to 1-2 nodes.
Beech grows slowly, and does not require much pruning.
However, because beech does not produce secondary buds, it is important
not to allow the internodes to become too long. Beech can be wired, but
wiring saps the vigor of the tree, and should not be left on longer than
three months. The bark of the beech is delicate and needs protection. It
is best to do most shaping through pruning. Because of the apical
predominance of the plant, prune the top back drastically, but prune lower
branches sparingly. Because of its large leaves, beech is generally
reserved for medium to large size bonsai. Because beech grows so slowly,
it is a long- term project to grow a specimen beech. This is why young
beech are often used in forest plantings.
seeds sown in autumn (or use cold-treated seeds in spring).
before bud burst, every 2-3 years. F. sylvatica may be repotted in autumn,
taking advantage of its second growth spurt - more drastic pruning of roots can be done in autumn than spring. Use
basic bonsai soil mix but prefers loose acid soil.
Pests and diseases:
Pests: Beech leaf miners, scale, bark beetles, and aphids. phid
colonies on the lower branches can be dislodged with a strong stream of
water from the garden hose. Colonies are often disposed of by predatory
insects. Borers such as flat-headed appletree borer or two-lined chestnut
borer bore into trees weakened by stress. Prevent the insect infestations
by keeping trees healthy with regular fertilization and irrigation in dry
weather. Regular inspections of the trunk and branches are suggested for
early detection of scales. Beech scale can be devastating to trees in the
northeastern United States. Certain caterpillars can be controlled with
sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis. Insect identification allows proper
spray recommendations to be made.
Diseases: Usually none
are serious provided soil is not compacted and is well-drained. Several
fungi cause leaf spots but are generally not serious to warrant chemical
control. Powdery mildew causes a white coating on the leaves. The disease
is most common late in the season. Bleeding canker forms cankers from
which a brownish liquid oozes. Crown symptoms include leaves of smaller
size and lighter green color than normal. In severe cases the leaves wilt
and the branches die. Avoid feeding with high nitrogen fertilizers as it
seems to worsen the condition of infected trees. Beech bark disease occurs
when the feeding site of woolly Beech scale is invaded by a fungus. The
fungus kills the bark and in the process, the insects. There are no
satisfactory controls for the fungus. Control the disease by controlling
the scale with a horticultural oil. Cankers infect, girdle, and
occasionally kill branches. Prune out the infected branches. During
periods of high temperatures and low rainfall Beech may scorch. Make sure
trees are adequately watered and mulched.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Fagus crenata: Japanese blume, Japanese white
beech, Siebold's beech - more suitable for bonsai than its European
counterpart due to its slightly smaller stature and leaves. The bark is
sometimes bleached with lime sulphur to accentuate its white
- Fagus grandifolia: American beech - With its pale,
silvery bark and rich green leaves, the American beech is considered a
more desirable landscape plant than the European. It is not that common
in bonsai, however, perhaps because it grows to over 100 feet, with
leaves of 3-6 inches! If proper leaf reduction and dwarfing techniques
are used, however, it makes an impressive large sized bonsai. Zones
- Fagus japonica: Japanese black beech.
- Fagus sieboldii.
- Fagus sylvatica: European beech, common beech -
This tree has the darkest gray bark and darkest green leaves of all the
beeches. Common in both Europe and America, it grows to a height of 90
feet, with leaves of 3-4 inches. Hardy in zones 5-9.
- Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifolia': cut-leaf
- Fagus sylvatica 'Atropurpurea' ('Atropunicea'):
copper beech - With its copper red to brownish-black foliage, this
cultivar is commonly seen on the American east coast and in western
Canada. Smooth gray bark, ovate-elliptical leaves. Do not let soil dry
out completely. Buds grow very rapidly and it tends to do budding only
once at beginning of spring. Pinching is done by removing the incipient
leaves when they have almost come out of the bud. Do not defoliate aged
specimens or those that were collected from nature. Leaf prund young
specimens only once every 2 years.
- Fagus sylvatica heterophylla: fern-leaved beech -
deeply-cut, lobed leaves.
- Fagus sylvatica 'Lanciniata': laceleafbeech,
fern-leaf beech, cut-leaf beech.
- Fagus sylvatica pendula: weeping beech - In nature,
an awkward tree in its youth, but developes into a stunning specimen
- Fagus sylvatica purpurea: purple beech.
- Fagus sylvatica 'Riversii': purple beech - dark
- Fagus sylvatica 'Rohanii': purple fern-leaved
beech, oak leaf beech - deeply cut purple leaves.
- Fagus sylvatica 'Spathiana': purple beech - another
purple beech, but the best for holding its color deep into the
- Fagus sylvatica 'Tricolor': tricolor beech.
- Fagus sylvatica 'Zlatia': golden beech.
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