American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
American Beech
Fagus grandifolia

The oil obtained from the seed has been used as a fuel in oil lamps[226].

Wood – strong, hard, heavy, very close grained, not durable, difficult to cure[61, 82, 227]. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot[227]. Harvested commercially, it is used for furniture, flooring, tool handles, crates etc[227]. It makes an excellent charcoal and is used in artwork[61, 227].

  • Medicinal Use

    A decoction of the boiled leaves has been used as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash etc[213, 222, 257].

    The nuts have been eaten as a vermifuge[222, 257].

    A tea made from the bark has been used in the treatment of lung ailments[222, 257]. It has also been used to procure an abortion when the mother was suffering[257].

  • Edible Use

    Young leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb[183]. A very nice mild flavour but the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer.

    Seed – raw or cooked. Small but very sweet and nutritious[82, 117, 171, 183, 227], it is sold in local markets in Canada and some parts of America[82]. Rich in oil, the seed also contains up to 22% protein[213]. The raw seed should not be eaten in large quantities since it is believed to cause enteritis[159, 226]. It can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with cereal flours in making bread, cakes etc[183]. The germinating seeds can be eaten raw, they are tender, crisp, sweet and nutty[183].

    The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[183, 213].

    An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed[177, 183].

    Inner bark[177]. Dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread[213].

  • Cautionary Notes

    Large quantities of the raw seed may be toxic[159].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.
Thrives on a light or medium soil[11], doing well on chalk[1], but ill-adapted for heavy wet soils[1]. Young trees are very shade tolerant, but are subject to frost damage so are best grown in a woodland position which will protect them[200]. Although very cold hardy, this species requires hotter summers than are normally experienced in Britain so is not usually a success here and is very slow growing[200]. The seeds are dispersed after the first frosts[227], they are sometimes gathered and sold in local markets in N. America[82, 227]. Good crops are produced every 2 – 3 years in the wild[227]. This species produces suckers[11] and often forms thickets in the wild[227]. Trees have surface-feeding roots and also cast a dense shade, this greatly inhibits the growth of other plants and, especially where a number of the trees are growing together, the ground beneath them is often almost devoid of vegetation[226, 227].
Eastern N. America – New Brunswick to Florida, west to Texas and Ontario.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.