Random Plant: American beech revisited

American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

Early last spring I wrote about the winter foliage of young American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae). A couple of weeks ago I came across a mature beech that was displaying a greater variety of characteristic traits. This tree demonstrated the smooth, silvery bark that is typical of this species:

Bark of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

Judging by the d.b.h. (diameter at breast height) and a table provided by Tubbs and Houston (1990), this tree was nearly 200 years old. Even then this tree was only middle-aged. American beeches are slow-growing and can live for up to 400 years (Tubbs and Houston 1990).

These beeches often sucker and grow thickets of younger shoots around their main trunks (Tubbs and Houston 1990). This individual demonstrated that growth:

Suckering shoots of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

The nascent leaves weren’t quite unfurled, still lacking the distinctive sharp points at the ends of the side veins. They were however showing the dense and parallel arrangement of the veins:

Nascent leaf of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

The leaves also had fine white hairs along the midveins:

Hairs along the leaf midvein of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

The ground was littered with the spiny seed husks from the previous year’s reproduction:

Seed husks of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

Surprisingly some of the seeds weren’t yet eaten by animals:

Seed of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia, Fagaceae) photographed 04/29/2012 near Sand Creek, Michigan.

These seeds are a favorite food of numerous animals, including rodents, deer, foxes, and many birds (Tubbs and Houston 1990).

Literature cited:

Tubbs CH, Houston DR. 1990. Fagus grandifolia Ehrh., American beech. In: Burns RM, Honkala BH, tech. coords. Silvics of North America.Volume 2, Hardwoods. Agric. Handbk. 654.Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service: 325–332.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Random Plant and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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