In Europe commonly found from the lowlands to the Alps, in altitudes of 1600 m; dominant in woodlands on open, moist, well-drained, warm, calcareous and chalk free, moderately deep, sandy-stony loam soils, in cool-humid climatic zones with a precipitation above 500 mm.
Large, broad and round crowned tree, with strong branches hanging to the ground (if free standing), in stands and in groups forming immense, straight stems.
25 to 30 m in height. Free-standing, mature specimens are 25 to 30 m in spread. Annual growth is 50 cm in height and 40 cm spread.
Young branches are grey-brown, becoming smooth and silver grey with age.
Deciduous, alternate, broad elliptic to oval, 5 to 10 cm long, with 5 to 9 pairs of veins, wavy margins, juvenile leaves have silky hairs, later dark green, glossy and smooth above, hairy veins beneath. Autumn colour is bright yellow to red-brown.
Plant is monoecious, numerous male flowers are held on long stalks in globose clusters; female inflorescences in twos. Flowers after 15 to 20 years, May.
Always two nuts with one seed each (beechnuts), in bristly, horizontal or upright husks. Consumed in large quantities they are mildly poisonous (high content of oxalic acid).
The widely spreading, densely branching main side roots are very strongly developed. Of all the native woodland trees, beech trees have the most intense root penetration of the topsoil layer. The roots lie at a depth of 1 to 1.4 m on compacted soils and, with a high ground water table, the root-mass is often only 30 cm deep. On light, sandy soils the root system is occasionally twice the spread of the crown diameter! The roots are extremely sensitive to compaction, covering, excavation, sealing with an impermeable material, changes in the ground water table and flooding.
Generally undemanding, but prefers moist, nutrient-rich, loamy soils with some lime, warm calcareous soils in positions of high atmospheric humidity are the optimum sites. Beech will also thrive to a satisfactory degree on mildly acid, poorer soils.
Shade tree, tolerates much shade (beech will thrive at light levels of 1 /60 of full day light).Tolerant of frosts to minus 30 °C, temperatures below that will cause damage to the crown and branches, slightly susceptible to damage by late frosts. Sensitive to heat, loves high atmospheric humidity, suffers on waterlogged sites and in long periods of drought, sensitive to atmospheric and soil pollution. The sudden exposure of the trunk and branches to sunlight results in damage through sunburn. Beeches can reach an age of 300 to 400 years.