Fagus sylvatica (Atropurpurea Group)
Common Name: purple beech 
Type: Tree
Family: Fagaceae
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 50.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 30.00 to 45.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Deer


Best grown in deep, rich, moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Intolerant of wet, poorly drained soils. Difficult to transplant and does not always grow well in urban settings. Reportedly tolerates a wider range of soils than American beech.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Fagus sylvatica, commonly called European beech, is a large deciduous tree typically growing to 50-60’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a dense, upright-oval to rounded-spreading crown. It is native to woodlands in central and southern Europe. European colonists brought this tree to America in the mid-1700s and it has been a popular ornamental shade tree since that time. European beech is primarily distinguished from the similar American beech (Fagus grandifolia) by (a) smaller size, (b) darker gray bark, and (c) shorter leaves that have wavy mostly untoothed margins. It is a low-branched tree, with its trunk ranging from 2-3’ (less frequently 4’) in diameter. Trunks have distinctive bark that is thin, smooth and gray. Ovate to elliptic, lustrous dark green leaves (to 4” long) have wavy mostly toothless margins and prominent parallel veins. Foliage turns golden bronze in fall. Monoecious yellowish green flowers bloom in April-May, the male flowers in drooping, long-stemmed, globular clusters and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to triangular nuts enclosed by spiny bracts. Beechnuts ripen in fall and are edible. Many cultivars are available in commerce in a variety of different forms, leaf shapes and leaf colors.

Genus name comes from the Latin name.

Specific epithet means growing in woods or forest-loving.

Atropurpurea Group trees, commonly called copper beech and purple beech, basically include a variety of different purple-leaved European beech trees ranging in leaf color from pale purple with a hint of green to bronze purple to dark purple approaching black. Atropurpurea Group foliage usually turns copper-red in fall. Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’, Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea and Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’ are basically synonyms which are included in the Atropurpurea Group designation.


No serious insect or disease problems. Beech scale is an occasional problem. Watch for aphids, Japanese beetles and caterpillars. Distressed trees may be attacked by borers. Beech bark disease, canker and powdery mildew may occur.


A large tree for a large space. Excellent shade tree for large lawns and parks.