The Cristata European beech is also known as the cock's comb beech due to the way its curled leaves are clustered on very short stems at the end of branches.
A wide range of cultivars of the European beech have been developed, many of which are eye-catching show stoppers for their shape (weeping, columnar or rounded) or foliage color (green, variegated, purple or gold); they are often featured as specimen trees where space permits. The smooth gray bark is an attractive feature of the species.
The genus Fagus includes 10-13 species of the beech tree, which are native to temperate regions of Asia, Europe and North America. Only Fagus grandifolia, the American beech, is native to the U.S. and Illinois. A single species, Fagus sylvatica or the European beech, accounts for the vast majority of cultivars used in landscaping. The Chicago Botanic Garden's collections contain three species but more than two dozen varieties among its more than 100 beech trees.
Like their cousins the oaks, beech trees are long-lived and slow growing hardwood trees. The fruit produced annually is commonly called a beech nut and is beloved by wildlife. Beech trees are majestic shade trees at maturity. While tolerant of a wide range of soils, the genus prefers consistent and moderate moisture.