Fagus sylvatica
including common varieties such as the copper beech

ID check

  1. Leaves are alternate in arrangement, not divided into separate leaflets and are deciduous.
  2. Leaves are not indented into lobes. They are up to 9cm long and are less than 3 times as long as they are broad. They are egg-shaped to ellipse-shaped.
  3. Leaf edges are wavy but not toothed.
  4. Bark is greyish or brown.
  5. Flowers lack petals and are greenish.
  6. Fruit is dry and has a spiny husk.


Beech tree

Beech tree © Bob Press


Up to 40m tall with a broad, domed crown.


Smooth and pale grey.


Up to 2cm long, cigar-shaped, pointed and pale brown.


Oval to elliptical. They have wavy edges. The veins on the underside and the leaf stalk have silky hairs. Copper beech varieties have darker purple-coloured leaves.


Males form long-stalked, drooping, tassel-like heads and have 4–7 sepal-like lobes. Females are in pairs surrounded by a spiny husk with 4 lobes. Both sexes are yellowish.


Up to 2cm long, containing 2 triangular brown nuts.


Beech tree flowers

Beech tree flowers.

© Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Hungary
Beech tree fruit

Beech tree fruit.

© Bob Press
Beech tree

Beech tree.

© Bob Press
Beech tree leaves

Beech tree leaves.

© Bob Press
Copper beech

Copper beech tree.

© Tortuosa, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


These diagrams explain some of the important tree and plant parts.


Diagram of a flower showing the stigma, stamen, style, petal and sepal

Leaf parts

Diagram of a leaf showing the apex, margin, midrib, vein and stalk

Leaf shapes

These diagrams show the different leaf shapes you might come across on your survey. Leaf shapes are important for identifying trees.

Palmate leaf
A palmate leaf - the leaflets extend from a single point, like fingers from a hand
Palmately lobed leaf
Palmately lobed leaf - the lobes are arranged on both sides of the stalk like a feather
Pinnate leaf
Pinnate leaf - the leaflets are arranged on both sides of the stalk like a feather
Pinnately lobed leaf
Pinnately lobed leaf - the lobes are arranged on both sides of the stalk like a feather

Leaf arrangements

The way leaves are arranged on a stem can be important for identifying trees.

Opposite leaves
Opposite leaf arrangement
Alternate leaves
Alternate leaf arrangement


These definitions explain some of the trickier words and phrases used in these pages.

Alternate – the arrangement of leaves on a stem - the leaves attach at different but alternating points, rather than opposite points.

Anther – the part of the stamen that contains pollen.

Apex – the top or end; the tip of a leaf for example.

Bract – a leaf-like structure, usually found below the flower or fruit.

Bud scale – usually a type of modified leaf that encloses and protects a bud.

Catkin – slender inflorescences made up of small flowers, usually reduced to the male and female parts. Catkins are typical of wind-pollinated trees.

Coniferous – trees that have cones, and needle or scale-like leaves.

Crown – in a tree, everything above the trunk.

Deciduous – a tree that sheds its leaves all at once in the autumn.

Evergreen – a tree that retains its leaves all year round.

Girth – the circumference of something, like the trunk of a tree.

Gland (of a leaf) – a small organ on a leaf that gives out oils or similar substances.

Inflorescence – the arrangement of all the flowers on a tree. The shape is used to help identify the plant.

Key – a tool used to identify groups and species of living things.

Leaflet – a subdivision of a leaf - it may look like a leaf but is attached to the leaf stalk or midrib, not to the shoot.

Lobe – a rounded or pointed section of a leaf, not divided into a leaflet.

Margin – the edge of a leaf.

Midrib – the central vein of a leaf.

Native – a tree that occurs naturally in an area, as opposed to a non-native tree that has been introduced.

Opposite – the arrangement of leaves on a stem - the leaves attach in pairs at the same point, opposite each other, rather than attaching at alternate points.

Palmate – a leaf shape in which the lobes or leaflets radiate from a single point, like fingers from a hand.

Petals – usually larger and more brightly coloured than sepals.

Pinnate – a leaf shape in which the lobes or leaflets are arranged on both sides of the stalk or midrib like a feather.

Pollarded – when the upper branches of a tree have been cut back to encourage new growth.

Sepals – the outermost parts of a flower which cover and protect the flower when it is in bud. They are usually green.

Side shoots – short, spur-like shoots growing from the main shoots.

Spike – an elongated cluster of flowers; a type of inflorescence.

Stalk – the structure that supports the blade of a leaf.

Stigma – the part at the end of the style. It is covered with a sticky substance that pollen adheres to.

Stipule – a small, leaf-like structure, found where the leaf connects to the stem.

Style – a tube-like structure in the centre of a flower that supports the stigma.

Trunk – the woody stem of a tree, before the branches.

Urban forest – the trees in our towns and cities.

Whorl – 3 or more leaves or needles circling around a stem.