Size: European beeches are slow-growing when they are young, often taking 3 years after planting to begin growing well. However, once they catch on, they usually reach 50 to 70 feet tall, and occasionally 100 feet. Typically about 10 feet tall and equally as wide at five years, they will reach almost 50 feet in 20 years or so. They keep on growing even after 50 years. Their spread is usually less than or equal to their height. Stiffly upright when young, they branch increasingly with age and soon acquire a full, rounded top. Some varieties have graceful, drooping branches.
Foliage: European beeches are deciduous, losing their foliage over the winter. Individual leaves grow alternately along each side of their stems. Shaped like slightly elongated ovals, they are about 2 to 3 inches long. They have 5 to 9 pairs of veins in them, and their edges are partly toothed. Young, new leaves are a shiny bright green with a gray cast, becoming a duller dark green in summer and bronze or yellow in autumn. They often hang on through the winter. Some types of European beech have variegated foliage or coppery, purple leaves. Some also have finer textured, feathery foliage with more toothed edges.
Flowers and Fruit: European beeches produce inconspicuous clusters of yellow-green to green-brown flowers each spring. These give way over the growing season to small hanging, softly spined nuts which mature by September or October. Highly prized by woodpeckers, blackbirds, and other birds and wildlife, they are sweet and have been used as table oil and as a coffee substitute by humans.