A deciduous tree 70 to 80 ft high, occasionally more, with a thin, smooth, grey bark; spreading by means of root suckers, so that one tree will form of itself a colony of stems; young shoots at first clothed with long hairs, which soon fall away, Leaves ovate or oval, 2 to 5 in. long, 3⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. wide, taper-pointed, usually wedge-shaped at the base, coarsely toothed, at first clothed with silky hairs, but soon dark green and quite glabrous above except along the midrib, paler below, and with tufts of hairs in the vein-axils and along the midrib; stalk 1⁄4 in. or rather more long; veins usually eleven to fifteen pairs. Fruits about 3⁄4 in. long; the three-angled nuts enclosed by a downy, prickly husk, the prickles much recurved.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1766. The American beech, like so many other trees of its region, has never been much of a success in Britain and the only example recorded is a rather shrubby tree at Eastnor Castle, Heref., measuring 35 × 61⁄4 ft at 2 ft (1970). It is easily distinguished from F. sylvatica by the suckering habit, the narrower, more pointed, regularly toothed leaves, with more numerous veins.
f. pubescens Fern. & Rehd. – Leaf-blades permanently downy beneath.
var. caroliniana (Loud.) Fern. & Rehd. F. ferruginea var. caroliniana Loud. – Leaves more shallowly toothed and more slenderly pointed than in the typical variety and the prickles on the husk shorter. This variety has a more southern distribution than the typical variety. The leaf-blades are occasionally downy beneath (f. mollis Fern. & Rehd.).