This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Deciduous or evergreen trees with entire or toothed leaves. Male flowers in small bracteate heads or slender drooping peduncles; perianth 5-to 7-lobed; stamens 8 to 16. Female flowers 1 to 3 together in an involucre of 4 bracts, which eventually hardens and encloses the triangular or winged usually one-seeded nuts. There are about fifteen species in the temperate regions of the north and south. The name is from to eat, in allusion to the edible seeds.
1. F. sylvatica. Common Beech (fig. 213).-If we give the Oak the palm for grandeur, we must award the Beech the palm for beauty. It ordinarily attains a height of 60 to 80 feet, and in rare instances it exceeds 100 feet. It would be superfluous to describe the typical form, but there are some varieties that we must not omit to mention. The most striking of these is F. s. purpurea, the Purple Beech, having deep purple foliage, forming a fine contrast with the verdant foliage of other trees. F. s. cuprea, the Copper Beech, has a less pleasing tint, and should not be planted where only one is wanted. F. s. foliis argenteo-variegatis, Silver-striped Beech, and F. s. foliis aureo-variegdtis, Grold-striped Beech, are also very pretty. F. s. pendula and F. s. purpurea pen-dula are fine robust weeping trees. Besides the foregoing there are several with more or less lobed or bipinnatifid leaves, as F. s. inclsa, F. s. aspleniifolia, and F. s. quercifolia; and F. s. macrophylla has larger foliage than the common form. The Beech is found from Norway to Asia Minor, reappearing in Japan.
Fig. 213. Fagas sylvatica (Common Beech).
F. ferruginea, syn. F. sylvatica, var. Americana, is a closely allied North American species, inferior in point of beauty. It is distinguished from the European species by its narrower longer leaves which are clothed with rufous hairs when young.
F. antarctica is a small-leaved deciduous species from the extreme South of America; and F. betuloides is an evergreen speci-es from the same region with very small coriaceous ovate toothed leaves. This is quite hardy in exposed situations in the South-west of Britain.