Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica) Identification

Beech Tree / Spring / Summer / Autumn / Edible

Through this guide we’re going to take a look at how to Identify The Beech Tree.

As I walk through the dense woodland, my senses come alive with the earthy aroma of fallen leaves and the delicate rustling of branches above. Amongst the myriad of trees that surround me, one species stands out with its unique characteristics and unmistakable beauty: the beech tree.

We might think that learning about trees and tree identification is a bit of a waste of time, but the beech tree is definitely one to get the hang of as it has some exciting uses:

  1. Lots of wild Fungi like growing with Beech Trees
  2. You can make a delightful Beech Leaf Gin
  3. You can eat Beech Nuts

So let’s grab our baskets and head out looking for those beech trees.

Common Names

Common beech, European beech

Botanical Name of the Beech Tree

Fagus sylvatica

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Fagales

Family: Fagaceae

Genus: Fagus

Growing Season of the Beech Tree

All year round, but the leaves are only really edible for the first few weeks after they emerge,  after that they become too bitter and tough to eat.

The nuts or masts appear in Autumn.

Known Hazards 

There is some evidence to suggest that they shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities as they are toxic to some people. 

Could be confused with

Large leaved lime Tilia platyphyllos perhaps but the leaves of this tree are also edible.

Range and Distribution

Very common throughout the UK. It is the dominant tree in the woodlands of Southern and Central England.


They prefer well drained, slightly acidic soils.

Physical Characteristics of the Beech Tree

The Beech Tree is a large tree, growing up to 40 metres tall.

Beech Tree


They have smooth silver/grey bark.



The leaves are lime green, with wavy edges. They are around 5-10 cm long, grow in alternate pairs and are simple.  It is slow to lose its leaves, quite often holding them until the following spring.


Fruit & Nuts

If you look around the base of the tree you may see any empty masts from previous years. The masts are egg shaped and bristly and open to reveal 1-3 triangular nuts.

The quantity of nuts varies massively from year to year.

Beech, shot of nut and leaf-forager James

Edible Uses of the Beech Tree

The young, fresh leaves can be nibbled raw or added to salads.

The leaves are also used to make Noyau a delicious alcoholic beverage.

The nuts or masts were commonly fed to livestock and when roasted make a good coffee substitute, they can also be eaten raw, simply peel off the outer shell.

They can also be pressed to make oil.

Other facts

Beech is associated with femininity and is often considered the queen of British trees, where oak is the king.  The tree was thought to have medicinal properties and its leaves were boiled to make a poultice which was used to relieve swellings. Forked beech twigs are also traditionally used for divining.

Learn more about the folklore here

Identification is key!

Maybe you'd like to join us for some hands-on Foraging?

Find our Up coming Courses here