Peachy purple beeches

Some great purple-leaf European* beeches

The following are all Fagus sylvatica, the European beech. (*Sadly, the native American beech, Fagus grandifolia, has not shown its Old World cousin's diversity in form and color. Not yet, anyway. So you're unlikely to find cultivars of American beech at garden centers.)

'Dawyck Purple' beech, very narrow (perhaps 10' wide but 50' tall), with deep purple leaves. Maybe we love it just a little more than otherwise because it was selected at one of our favorite gardens, Dawyck Botanical Garden near Peebles in the Scottish Borders.

'Purple Fountain' beech, purple leaves on a narrow weeper. The foliage tends to be dark red-purple in spring, fading to bronze in summer's heat. Variety 'Black Swan' is said to be more deeply colored and keep that color better in summer; it's also more compact. 

'Purpurea,' the standard purple leaf beech. (Below.) A mixed-bag group in which all are dark of leaf but otherwise greatly varied in their character. Most begin each year black-purple but many fade to green by summer. To plant one is to make a bet on the future, a bet that will always pay off but often in unexpected directions and dimensions. If you have a mature purple beech, it's worth growing some seedlings as they tend to come true in terms of reddish foliage, but give rise to variations in tone and form. You may net a Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Cuprea'), with foliage intermediate in color between the green- and purple forms, a weeper, a dwarf...

This 'Purple Fountain' is beautiful but you should know going in that it would be wider but for its owner's annual clipping of "wild hairs."

This 'Purple Fountain' is beautiful but you should know going in that it would be wider but for its owner's annual clipping of "wild hairs."

'Purpurea Nana,' a dwarf purple beech, a 10' upright oval with (muddy) purple leaves. We are not enamored of this variety but list it to let you know to watch every word in a plant name. To confuse this one with the next would be a shame.

'Purpurea Pendula,' pygmy weeping purple beech. A chubby little purple leaf weeper, wider than tall. The foliage is not so deep a purple as we could wish but the form is delightful unless you have something against mushrooms. In the Great Lakes region we've never seen one top 8' although we hear they can get to 10'. The one pictured here is in our Detroit Zoo garden.

 

'Purpurea Tricolor,' the tricolor beech. There may be no practical difference between this, 'Tricolor' and 'Roseomarginata.' Some claim that true 'Tricolor'/'Purpurea Tricolor' trees have both pink and white in the margin of each red-purple leaf, while 'Roseomarginata' has only pink. This is a smaller tree than the species but don't let that make you think it's a little tree. It can top 30'.

 25 year old beech (below)

our own tricolor beech, about 25 years old and pushing 35'

our own tricolor beech, about 25 years old and pushing 35'

'Red Obelisk' beech, with leaves not only purple but lacy. Narrower and shorter than the species but not "little." Expect 40-50'.

 
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Friends Judy and Bill Jacobs grow the tricolor beech we featured on our Trees magazine. That's not fall color -- it's jewel tone purple with pink highlights all summer.

Friends Judy and Bill Jacobs grow the tricolor beech we featured on our Trees magazine. That's not fall color -- it's jewel tone purple with pink highlights all summer.

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