Tree of the Week – European Copper Beech “Riversii”
The European Copper Beech is a large deciduous tree typically growing to 50’-60’ tall with a dense upright oval to rounded spreading crown. This is normally a low branched tree(unless trained otherwise in youth)with the purple leaved selection ‘Riversii’ featuring large glossy leaves up to 5 inches long. Foliage of this selection emerges deep purple in spring, fading to purple green in summer, and finally turns a fiery copper in Autumn.
The Copper Beech ‘Riversii’ slowly grows with a muscular, gray trunk with thin but smooth bark. It remains smooth into maturity. The mature trunk looks like a massive dinosaur or elephant leg that holds many spreading branches. The European Copper Beech ‘Riversii’ makes an impressive shade or street tree. Beech trees also tolerate branch tip shearing well, allowing them to be clipped into formal box like forms if desired.
This tree is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 7, and perhaps into zone 4 if sheltered from cold drying winter winds. It does well in most soil types as long as they are not water logged or poorly drained, and is happy in full sun or part shade. While it has no serious disease or insect problems, beech scale and Japanese beetles may be occasional pathogens to watch for.
The fruit or “beechnut” of this species is edible and has a nutty flavor. They are a favorite of wildlife so it may be difficult to find any remaining nuts when the fruit bearing spiny husks open shortly after maturity in Autumn.
In closing, the European Copper Beech ‘Riversii’ is a beautiful hardy performer and is another valuable species to include for planting in the “urban diversified tree species list”.