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Fagus sylvatica Purpurea

“Purple Beech”

Fagus Sylvatica Purpurea

Common Name

“Purple Beech”


Environment

Not demanding of soil type, it requires a free draining structure that does not waterlog. During establishment it is important not to let the shallow roots dry, with regular watering required. It succeeds well in Lime alkaline soils and is hardy to winter frosts. Would naturally establish on hillsides, rather than in the wet clay soil at the bottom. Ideal as a solitary feature tree, or large avenue planting.


Foliage

Buds break open with dark plum purple leaves. These mature into a brighter lavender green in shaded areas. Leaf colour is very dependant on its location and its exposure to the sun. As autumn comes the leaves bronze and become a golden brown. They are marcescence, in that they hold their crinkled leaves on the canopy throughout the winter.


Bark

Soft shining bark is a smooth silver grey. This runs through the branches which provides contrast to its stunning purple foliage.


Size

10m high x 6m wide after 25 years.


The mighty Beech, native to southern England and one of the most imperial of our trees. With a royal stately form, it can reach mature heights of 35m with a long, far reaching canopy.

This Purple cultivar should not be confused with the well-known Copper Beech which is a seedling variety. Its deep plum shaded leaves open in Spring, with its summer colour dependent on the sunlight that is available.

Green leaves have more chlorophyll which absorb colours of red and purple light, whilst reflecting green. That’s why we perceive them as green. Purple leaves have higher concentrations of anthocyanin which absorbs green light, but reflects red and purple light, appearing purple to us. When the Purple Beech is planted in shaded locations with less sun exposure, it requires more red and purple light, so will create additional chlorophyll to absorb it and assist its photosynthesis. This is when the leaves can become as vivid a green as the common Beech. In more exposed locations its summer foliage can mature into oyster plum purple. As summer fades these mature into molten browns and leathery yellows which crinkle and dry as they shut down. Throughout the winter the scrunched brown leaves remain on the branches, providing interesting screening. The leaves tend to overlap, allowing very little light and rain to reach the ground beneath.

A muscular tree when planted as a solitary specimen, it will grow with a wide crown that hangs down, sometimes reaching the ground. Also ideal for avenue planting, where the Beech politely refrains from stepping on its neighbour’s toes, growing upright with a strong central canopy.