The American Beech: That’s One Tall Tree!

By Sarah Lord

Stroll along the shaded sidewalk of West Lanvale Street and you’ll find that east of Park Avenue the tallest tree is a multi-branched American beech, nearing 50 ft. in height.

Slow-growing and happy in mixed forests where it rises to twice that height, Fagus grandifolia is native to eastern north America as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida.

American beech
American beech tree at 157 W. Lanvale St.

Its bark is silver-gray and distinctively smooth as skin. Its ovate leaves have a pointed tip, with side leaf veins off the midrib that are always parallel, each having its own point. The triangular nut, somewhat bitter to human tastes (and by the way, not used to make chewing gum), is a favorite of our city squirrels.

This particular Fagus grandifloria at 157 W Lanvale Street lost its main leader—the central “stalk” of the tree— more than fifty years ago, so now it resembles a sturdy hand reaching for the sky.

And, as occurs commonly with the growth pattern of this species, its trunk seems to have eyes that gaze back at you.

Editors’ note: Sarah Lord and Lee Tawney will be chronicling the grand trees of Bolton Hill in future issues of the Bulletin. Please email suggestions to Sarah at