Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in, native to temperate Europe and North America. The leaves of beech trees are alternate, entire or sparsely toothed. The flowers are small and single-sexed (monoecious). The female flowers are borne in pairs. The male flowers are borne on globose heads hanging from a slender stalk, produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear. The bark is smooth and light gray. The fruit is a small, sharply three–angled nut, borne singly or in pairs in soft-spined husks known as cupules. The nuts are edible, though bitter with a high tannin content, and are called beechmast.
The Common North American Beech Species
Often confused with birch, hophornbeam and ironwood; has long narrow scaled buds (vs. short scaled buds on birch); has grey, smooth bark and often called the "initial tree"; has no catkins; often root suckers surround old trees; has spiny-husked nuts; "Human-like" looking roots on older trees.