Tree to 30 m tall Leaves: alternate, short-stalked, shiny dark green above, light green beneath, 5 - 10 cm long, 3 - 6.5 cm wide, egg-shaped to elliptic with a wedge-shaped to rounded base and short-pointed tip, wavy to finely toothed, with five to nine vein pairs. Leaves turn gold-bronze in fall. Flowers: either male or female, found on the same tree (monoecious), yellowish green, male flowers clustered in spherical head, female flowers in spikes of two to four. Fruit: consists of one to three nuts surrounded by a husk. The husk is prickly and four-parted, and the nuts are 1.8 - 2.2 cm long and three-winged. Bark: gray, thin, smooth. Twigs: olive-brown, slender. Buds: dark brown, 2 - 2.5 cm long, narrow, sharply pointed. Form: broad and rounded with a short thick trunk and low branches.
Similar species: Fagus sylvatica and Fagus grandifolia are very similar in appearance. The simplest way to distinguish the two species is by the leaves. The leaves of F. grandifolia have nine to fourteen pairs of veins and coarsely toothed margins.
Flowering: April to early May
Habitat and ecology: This introduced species rarely escapes cultivation, and the only specimen collected in the Chicago Region was found in a park.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Notes: Fagus sylvatica was introduced from Europe. It is commonly used in parks and other large open areas. Some of the most commonly planted cultivars have purple foliage or a weeping habit.
Etymology: Fagus is the Latin word for beech. Sylvatica comes from the Latin word meaning "from the forest."