64. COPPER BEECH
Fagus sylvatica purpurea
CT Notable Tree
By circumference or the commonly used DBH (Diameter-at-Breast-Height), the Copper Beech is the largest tree at the Westmoor Arboretum. At 53 inches, it is mammoth, but is probably not the oldest tree in the Park. That may go to one of the slower growing trees that are smaller in size but older in years (Like the White Ash in front or the Black Birch to the south). This is Winter, and the reddish tint to the tree comes from the large amounts of bright-colored buds on the trees (inset).
SPRING, EMERGING LEAVES
Native to Europe but widely planted in the U.S., the Copper Beech puts on a very colorful show in all seasons. In Spring there are wild shapes and colors as the colorful leaf buds break and showcase every shade of red and copper.
SPRING, BREAKING FLOWER BUDS
Simultaneously, the flower buds also break, adding additional color and interest to the tree.
Copper Beeches are monecious (M/F flowers on the same tree). The males (anthers hanging) are on the left and the female pairs cluster closer to the branch (right). The female flowers will become the beech nuts of the tree by early Fall.
Summer color of the Copper Beech, also known as the Purple Beech for the leaf color. The leaves still contain plenty of chlorophyll (they need it to make energy via photosynthesis) but the green color is overcome by a pigment called anthocyanin. It is this pigment that turns the foliage purple. (also in Royal Purple Smoke Tree and Crimson Kings at the Arboretum)
Copper Beech nuts are high in both protein and fat - far more than acorns. Wildlife devours them, and when you walk under a Copper Beech - you will be stepping on shells, not nuts. An important food source for birds and all kinds of wildlife.
The Copper Beech is not as predictable as some species about what color to expect in Fall. Sometimes the color is muted, other times quite dramatic.
As the seasons turn at the end of the year, our focus shifts to the massive trunk and branches of the Copper Beech. This is a CT Notable Tree and while this is a very big tree, there are at least 20 Copper Beeches in CT that are significantly larger. The species simply gets really, really big.