American Beech – Fagus Grandifolia
A slow-growing tree known for its smooth, thin, gray bark and spreading canopy, the American beech is found throughout Ohio. Featuring a short, rounded, often hollow trunk, it is frequently used as a home by animals such as squirrels, opossums, and racoons, and when fully matured, it can reach a height of 60-80 feet. Adaptable to various soil pH levels, it prefers a rich, well-drained soil with consistent moisture; it also prefers partial or direct sunlight, though can survive in shadier conditions.
The leaf of an American beech is 2-4 inches long and simple, growing in an alternating pattern, with slightly undulating margins and coarse serrations. In fall, the leaves deepen from a yellow-green shade to a rich golden-brown. Younger trees then hold onto these leaves through winter while older beeches will lose all but the leaves on their lower, interior branches. Beeches produce a fruit with a prickly outer husk, which, in late summer and early fall, splits open to reveal one or two edible, triangular nuts that are high in fat and protein, eaten by both birds and mammals.
Beech wood is known for its strength, ability to be bent once steamed, and tendency to wear smoothly. For this reason, it is historically the wood of choice for a wooden plane body, a common woodworking tool used to smooth and shape other woods. It is also traditionally a wood of choice for chair-making, thanks to its pliable nature, at least after steaming.
Underhill, Roy. 1981. “The Woodwright’s Shop : A Practical Guide To Traditional Woodcraft : Underhill, Roy : Free Download, Borrow, And Streaming : Internet Archive”. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/woodwrightsshopp0000unde/page/n2/mode/1up?q=.
ODNR Division of Wildlife. 2020. “Trees Of Ohio Field Guide”. Columbus: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.