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
'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.
Right: 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,' 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...
'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'.
Below, 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'.
Right: 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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