Copper Beech Tree

The Copper Beech Tree Belongs In Your Garden

My first encounter with a copper beech tree was on a tour of the University of Washington campus in Seattle. This lovely campus features a wide variety of different trees, many of which have grown substantially in size over the past 100 years. The copper beech tree resembles the European beech in all respects except that the leaves are not green, but copper in color, and at times, purple.

The copper beech tree, a close relation to the oak, also has nuts which are a favorite of squirrels. While the beech nuts are considered edible, they contain tannin making them somewhat toxic to humans if eaten in large enough quantities.

Copper And Purple - The scientific name for this tree is Fagus sylvatica purpurea, the species name referring to the purple color of the leaves. The copper beech is also known as the purple beech, as the color of the leaves can vary somewhat between copper and purple. Attaining a height of up to 70 feet, the copper beech tree is an excellent shade tree, as its spread will often nearly equal its height. It is also a fairly long-lived tree, with many reaching an age of around 200 years. The branches of the mature tree tend to gracefully droop, and may need to be pruned back in areas where there will be pedestrian traffic near the tree. The tree should be placed in a somewhat protected area, as the bark is quite thin and fairly easily subject to damage from mechanical means. Though thin, the bark is quite smooth and quite attractive.

Most of the copper beech trees one would purchase from a nursery are grafted, where a branch having the desired coloring in the leaves is grafted to a stock root. While the seeds, or nuts, can be planted, the color of the resulting tree usually cannot be accurately predicted. If one attempts to grow a copper beach from seed, the result may be a copper beech, a purple beech, a green beach, or something in between. In placing one of these trees in a yard or garden, it is worth considering purchasing a plant that has already reached a height of 6' or so, since the copper beech tree is a relatively slow grower.

The copper beech takes well to pruning and can be grown as a hedge, and an attractive one at that, though it is at its best as a shade tree. While often grown as a lawn tree, grass may not grow well in close proximity to the trunk. A lawn will also be covered with seed husks in the fall, but if one can put up with that, and find a grass seed that performs well in shady areas, the copper beech tree will be a pleasant addition to most anyone's lawn.

Pests And Disease - A native of Europe, the copper beech became a favorite in North America around the time of the American Revolution. It is said to be hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 7, but has been known to do well in somewhat cooler regions. The copper beech tree is generally unaffected by pests or disease. Like all beech trees, it will at times play host to aphids, who can do little harm, and if present can usually easily be washed away. Powdery mildew is often sometimes a visitor, but like aphids, does the tree little harm, and is normally present for a few weeks at most. Other pests, such a borer insects, will usually avoid a tree that is healthy, and only infest trees that have for some reason become stressed.

One final word of warning. The copper beech tree is usually quite well-mannered, but don't plant one too near a sidewalk. As the tree grows, the root system may lift the sidewalk. The same could be said for the foundation of a building.


 

 


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