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Any of several different types of trees, especially about 10 species of deciduous ornamental and timber trees constituting the genus Fagus (family Fagaceae), native to temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. About 40 species of superficially similar trees, known as false beech (genus Nothofagus), are native to cooler regions of the Southern Hemisphere. A beech of the family Fagaceae is tall, round-headed, and wide-spreading, with smooth, steel-gray bark and toothed, shiny green leaves. The American beech (F. grandifolia), native to eastern North America, and the European beech (F. sylvatica), found throughout England and Eurasia, are the most widely known species. Both are economically important timber trees, often planted as ornamentals. Beech wood is durable under water and is valued for indoor use, tool handles, and shipping containers. The nuts provide forage for game animals, are used in fattening poultry, and yield an edible oil. Beeches are slow-growing and may live 400 years or more.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on beech, visit Britannica.com.