AMERICAN BEECH (Fagus americana - modern name Fagus grandifolia)
American Beech Bud
Distinguishing characters: The close-fitting, smooth, gray bark will tell this tree from all others except the red maple and yellow-wood. The red maple may then be easily eliminated by noting whether the branches are alternate or opposite. They are alternate in the beech and opposite in the maple. The yellow-wood may be eliminated by noting the size of the bud. The bud in the yellow-wood is hardly noticeable and of a golden yellow color, while that of the beech is very long, slender, and sharp-pointed, and chestnut brown in color.
Smooth, Gray Bark
Form and size: It grows tall in the woods, but on the open lawn spreads out into a massive, round-headed tree.
American Beech Leaves
Range: Eastern Canada and United States.
American Beech Range
Soil and location: Prefers a rich, well-drained soil, but will grow in any good soil.

Enemies: Aphids or plant lice that suck the sap from the leaves in spring and early summer are the chief enemies of the tree.
Ladybug and Aphids
Value for planting: The pleasing color of its bark, its fine spread of branches, which gracefully droop down to the ground, and its autumnal coloring, make the beech a favorite for lawn and park planting. The several European species of beech are equally charming.
American Beech Tree
Commercial value: The wood is strong, close-grained, and tough. It is used mainly for cooperage, tool handles, shoe lasts, chairs, etc., and for fuel.

Other characters: The fruit is a prickly burr encasing a sharply triangular nut which is sweet and edible.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the lesson.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Recite aloud the vocabulary words and their definitions.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


This lesson overviews the American beech tree, which can be characterized by its smooth, gray bark, spectacular fall foliage, and slender and sharp-pointed bud. The edible fruit/beechnut of the American beech tree is enclosed within a prickly burr. The scientific (Latinized) name of the American beech is Fagus grandifolia.


Burr: A seed pod with sharp features that stick in fur or clothing.
Beechnut: The small, triangular, edible nut of the beech tree.
Aphid: A sapsucking pest insect.



Binomial Nomenclature is the scientific system of naming each species of organism with a Latinized name (binomial name) in two parts:

  1. Genus: A larger group or organisms containing multiple species groups.
  2. Species: A group of organisms that can interbreed.

When writing a binomial name:

  1. The genus term is capitalized (Populus).
  2. The species-specific part of the term is all lowercase (nigra).

The genus part is often abbreviated to its initial letter.

  1. Homo sapiens is the binomial/scientific name for humans.
  2. Homo sapiens may be abbreviated to H. sapiens.

Given the modern scientific name of the beech, Fagus grandifolia, identify the following:

  1. The genus name
  2. The species identifier part of the name
  3. The full species name
  4. The abbreviated name


Activity 1: Narrate the Lesson

  • After reading or listening to the lesson, narrate the lesson aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Lesson Pictures

  • Study the lesson pictures and describe how they relate to the lesson.

Activity 3: Take a Nature Walk

  • Bring a small sketchbook and a specimen collection bag and embark on a nature walk.
  • If they grow in your area, find a beech tree. Otherwise, seek out another unstudied tree.
  • Study and sketch the appearance and habitat of the tree, especially its leaves, buds, and bark.
  • Collect a leaf specimen from the tree.
  • Use the sketch and leaf specimen to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk, complete page 52 in 'Science Field Book for Fourth Grade.'


Question 1

What is the fruit of the beech tree called?
1 / 4

Answer 1

The fruit of the beech tree is the beechnut.
1 / 4

Question 2

Can people eat the fruit of the beechnut?
2 / 4

Answer 2

Yes, beechnuts are edible to humans.
2 / 4

Question 3

What encases the beechnut?
3 / 4

Answer 3

A prickly burr encases the beechnut.
3 / 4

Question 4

Describe the characteristic bud of the beech tree
4 / 4

Answer 4

The bud of the beech tree is slender and sharp-pointed.
4 / 4

  1. What is the fruit of the beech tree called? The fruit of the beech tree is the beechnut.
  2. Can people eat the fruit of the beechnut? Yes, beechnuts are edible to humans.
  3. What encases the beechnut? A prickly burr encases the beechnut.
  4. Describe the characteristic bud of the beech tree The bud of the beech tree is slender and sharp-pointed.


  1. 'Studies of Trees' by Jacob Joshua Levison. n.p.
  2. 'Fagus grandifolia.' Wikipedia. n.p.