Other names for the American Beech includes Beech, Beech Nut, Carolina Beech and Ridge Beech.
Have you ever driven through a wooded area in the late fall and observed these under story trees with golden bronze or tan leaves even when all the other trees have lost their leaves? If you have then you were looking at the American Beech tree. But don’t be fooled the smaller under story trees because these trees can reach 60 feet tall and they are truly majestic. The American Beech has smooth gray bark.
I live close to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and it is a real treat to see these trees give color to the forest in the winter. I have one planted in my lower garden in filtered sunlight and it is very happy.
In April and May the male flowers have long globular clusters and the female flower turn into trangular nut enclosed by a spiny covering.
Beech nuts ripen in the fall and are edible. The seeds were often stored and used in the winter for food.These seeds are rich in oil and have up to 22% protein content. The leaves were used as an herb in stews and the inner bark was dried and used as a thickening agent in soups and stews.
The Cherokee chewed the nuts as a de-wormer and to treat skin problems like poison ivy, burns, frostbite, rash, and scalds.
Plant one of these trees if you like winter color. They like rich, moist but well drained soils in full to part shade.