Please try our next iteration of the Michigan Flora Online here. Beginning on February 1, 2023, will point to this new site.

The new site offers several benefits over the existing website, including real coordinate mapping, giving a clearer view of the density of documentation as well as more precision about plant distributions and their link to landforms. We will also have the ability to update species pages more regularly, both in terms of new collections and as more existing Michigan specimens are georeferenced. In addition, we have a better photo display, and offer indented keys.

Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.
Coefficient of Conservatism: 6
Coefficient of Wetness: 3
Wetness Index: FACU
Physiognomy: Nt Tree

Fagus grandifolia bark J. Kelly bark

Typical of beech-maple forests and hemlock-white pine-northern hardwoods. Thrives especially on islands and along the Lake Michigan shore where favored by moist winds.

Michigan is at the western edge of the range of beech. It is absent from the westernmost Upper Peninsula, and extends southward in Wisconsin only near Lake Michigan.

The smooth tight steel-gray bark of this species, together with the distinctive sharp-pointed slender elongate winter buds (ca. 15–25 mm long when fully grown) make this a well-known and easily recognized tree even in winter. Beech nuts, of which there are good crops only every few years, are an important food for wildlife as well as for the patient human. One quart of beech fruit, including burs (husks) will contain approximately one cup of nuts, which in turn will yield about one-half cup of shelled nutmeats. 

The leaves of beech are especially attractive as they unfold, accordion-like, from the prominent buds in the spring; they usually retain some silky pubescence on the petiole and veins beneath.

The European Fagus sylvatica L. is much more often planted, in a variety of cultivars, but is not known to escape. It differs from our native in having only mostly 5-9 pairs of veins in the leaf, which also has a much less toothed margin. Our native has mostly 9-14 pairs of veins per leaf, and a clearly serrate leaf margin.

Beeches in eastern North America are being killed by Beech Bark Disease, which results when wounds caused by an introduced scale insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga) are infected by the fungus Nectria coccinea. Infected trees show varying densities of roughened scars and lesions disfiguring the smooth bark. The disease was only recently discovered in Michigan, but is spreading.


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MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. January 29, 2023.