A deciduous tree sometimes 100 ft or more high in the wild; young shoots silky-hairy. Leaves obovate or rather rhomboidal in outline, usually broadest above the middle, mostly broadly wedge-shaped at the base, acuminate at the apex, margins wavy, rarely toothed, 21⁄2 to 41⁄2 in. long, half as much wide, silky-hairy on the veins and midrib beneath; veins in seven to twelve, sometimes to fourteen pairs; leaf-stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, silky-hairy. Husks about 7⁄8 in. long, obovoid, downy, the appendages at the base green, linear-oblong or narrowly spathulate, the upper ones bristle-like as in the common beech; stalk up to 3 in. long.
Native of the forests south of the Caspian, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, the Crimea, and the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula, but the western boundary is difficult to define owing to the existence of hybrids and intermediates between it and F. sylvatica. It is closely akin to that species, but differs in the larger leaves with more numerous pairs of veins; and the common beech has none of the leafy, spathulate appendages seen on the husks of F. orientalis. The latter character is also seen in the Japanese beech, F. crenata, to which the oriental beech is as closely allied as it is to the common beech. But in F. crenata the leaves are mostly broadest below the middle and the stalks of the involucre are very short; in F. orientalis the stalks are at least twice as long as the involucre (and are sometimes remarkably long and slender).
In Thrace, where F. sylvatica and F. orientalis are in contact, the common beech keeps to the mountains at altitudes of 2,000 to 4,500 ft, where conditions are cool and damp, while the oriental beech prefers lower, more sheltered situations. In the interesting forest discovered by the late Dr Turrill and his Bulgarian companions in the southern Rodopes in 1926, the oriental beech occurs in association with walnut, Ostrya carpinifolia, Turkish hazel (Corylus colurna), oriental hornbeam, and manna ash: ‘We had the impression of being in a Tertiary forest’ (W. B. Turrill, Plant Life of the Balkan Peninsula, pp. 139-140).
The date of introduction of F. orientalis to Britain is not certain, but a grafted tree at Kew, received from Lee’s nursery in 1880, as “F. macrophylla”, agrees better with F. orientalis than it does with the common beech. Three trees, received from Fisher, Son, and Sibray in 1911, have been recently identified as F. orientalis.
F. tauric a Popl. – F. G. Tutin (Flora Europaea, Vol. 1, p. 61) considers that this is best regarded as a variant of F. orientalis. It has the spathulate appendages on the husks characteristic of that species but in leaf characters it is intermediate between it and the common beech. See also F. moesiaca, under F. sylvatica.