Slow growth of American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Asimina76(7)October 7, 2013

I am trying to choose a large shade tree. I'm attracted to the American Beech, but I read that it grows quite slowly. How slowly does it grow in your experience (zone 7, full sun)? I'm also open to suggestions for alternative species. I know for instance that the European Beech grows faster, but I'm trying to stick to natives (plus, I just like the American Beech more). A pecan could work, but they don't have much fall interest. A red maple is another possibility, but I want to avoid their shallow root system (I've heard that some varieties minimize this issue).

Thanks for any advice/suggestions!

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The house I grew up in had many American Beech trees in the yard. They grew at a fairly good pace but nothing crazy.
If you are looking for alternatives Red oak, Sycamore, Tulip tree, Silver maple, Weeping willow, Cottonwood are very fast growers.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:15PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I just like the American Beech more

==>> then plant one.. lifes too short to be retentive over it ...

what.. second or third best might end up better..

i doubt it..

its your dream.. live it.. skeptics be damned ...

and all that.. if its zone appropriate for you ...


ps: all trees have rather shallow roots... in the top 2 feet of soil or so ... why is this an issue ... anything other than not wanting surface roots ..????? septic??? bedrock ... is this an issue.. or just another potential reason to over analyze it all.. and not live your dream... see above re PLANT ONE!!!!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Thanks for the suggestions.

@Ken: The root issue is simply that in my experience maples reach out along the surface and prevent planting much else anywhere near them.

"Life's too short to be retentive about it", I agree, however life is also too short to see an American Beech reach maturity! My reading indicates it takes 40 years. I have several wild Beech trees in a wooded area, I'm just not sure about planting one in the front yard as a shade tree b/c of the slow growth.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:33PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Once they are "well" established they can grow 1-2 feet a year, which isn't slow.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 11:04PM
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I have one that I planted in 2005. It grows about 18" a year. I haven't measured this years growth, though. I am not sure how tall tall now. This was taken last summer 2012. The statue beside it on the ground is about 14" tall.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 11:50PM
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Am. beech is among the most demanding of species when it comes to site conditions. More so than even sugar maple, they require moist but well-drained soil. They are also relatively difficult to find in commerce. But having said those two things, I can hardly think of a more worthy species to work with. I've spec'd some for projects I work on and am happy to report they can be found and they can take to transplant. Some shade/shelter might be advisable.

Incidentally, took a ride down trails near my N. WI land Sunday. Forest consisted of beech, sugar maple, hemlock, red oak-you know the type. Amazingly rich and beautiful area.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 11:30AM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

>ps: all trees have rather shallow roots... in the top 2 feet
>of soil or so ... why is this an issue ... anything other than
>not wanting surface roots ..?????

Ken, are you kidding me?!?!? How many times have you complained about Maple surface roots, and posted that picture of the roots from your neighbor's maple?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 12:27PM
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Thanks for the info all. I come to these forums to gather diverse opinions, so all of this is helpful to me.

@WisconsinTom: I agree that they are great trees. Finding a really old one WITHOUT initials carved in it is a rare and majestic treat!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 1:53PM
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You may not think that any other posts will help you want or not want the Eastern Beech tree. I will just say that I grew disappointed in my SSSSLLLLOOOOOWWWWW growing Beech tree. just plant it and don't expect much from it EVER. Then you will be happily surprised when it gets some size to it.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 12:51AM
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My multi-trunked beech grows a few feet a year - but it's growing in a 10ft wide stream/runoff. The root system is probably all under water and under the stream.

So water might be the key.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 4:58PM
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Beeches are ALSO shallow rooted and sensitive to compaction and root traffic.

That being said - I love beeches and am growing both American and European. European seem a little hardier around here, but it is COLD and dry for beech trees here. Mine are very slow growing, but they are also very small (biggest is maybe 3-4' tall)

They need lots of water but decent drainage. Mine are in a clay loam, but they seem ok with it (on a slight slope). They are also very shade tolerant, so your back yard might be a good spot, amongst other trees.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 4:36PM
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Reminds me of a project I'm working on at my job. Stream restoration-repair of extreme erosion in a heavily wooded ravine due to changes in land use upstream causing more "flash", ie. sudden bursts of high amounts of water following heavy rain events.

So....this is a "native restoration". Let's say, just for simplicity's sake, the contractor is less than ideal. Among the species we spec'd was American beech. They brought cut-leaf European beech! Now, I like European beech in all its configurations, but this is hugely inappropriate for such a project. Same contractor also provided us with pecan trees, in lieu of the bitternut hickories we'd requested, Norway maples instead of sugar maples, and 190 chokeberry shrubs instead of the 190 chokecherries spec'd in the plans. This last one despite my telling the gal in charge, on three separate occasions, that she wasn't saying that word quite right, lol! I like chokeberries too, but it ain't what we were looking for. I love my job!


    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 12:58PM
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American Beech needs to be promoted more. It is, imho, a much more handsome tree than the standard European Beech. Good cultural practices and some fertilizer will optimize the growth. 1 to 1.5 feet a year is not too bad for a tree that will live 300-500 years.

Now, the Cedar of Lebanon. That's a slow tree. Mine is doing MAYBE, 3 inches a year.

The picture is an American Beech in the Louisiana State Arboretum outside Ville Platt. If your ever in south central Louisiana, the Lafayette area, make the trip.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 2:18PM
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