Herb: American Beech


Latin name: Fagus grandifolia


Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)



Medicinal use of American Beech:

A decoction of the boiled leaves has been used as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash etc. The nuts have been eaten as a vermifuge. A tea made from the bark has been used in the treatment of lung ailments. It has also been used to procure an abortion when the mother was suffering.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
10 m
(33 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May

Habitat of the herb:

Rich uplands and mountain slopes, often forming nearly pure forests. In the south of its range it is also found on the margins of streams and swamps.

Edible parts of American Beech:

Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb. 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, it is sold in local markets in Canada and some parts of America. Rich in oil, the seed also contains up to 22% protein. The raw seed should not be eaten in large quantities since it is believed to cause enteritis. It can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with cereal flours in making bread, cakes etc. The germinating seeds can be eaten raw, they are tender, crisp, sweet and nutty. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Inner bark. Dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread.

Other uses of the herb:

The oil obtained from the seed has been used as a fuel in oil lamps. Wood - strong, hard, heavy, very close grained, not durable, difficult to cure. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot. Harvested commercially, it is used for furniture, flooring, tool handles, crates etc. It makes an excellent charcoal and is used in artwork.

Propagation of American Beech:

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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich uplands and mountain slopes, often forming nearly pure forests. In the south of its range it is also found on the margins of streams and swamps.

Known hazards of Fagus grandifolia:

Large quantities of the raw seed may be toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.