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Beech Seedlings Offer Hope for Tomorrow’s Forests

The Challenge: Populations of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) are declining in much of the species’ native range due to beech bark disease. The disease was first found in American beech in North America around 1932. Beech bark disease is a canker disease caused by the Neonectria fungus; feeding by the beech scale insect allows entry of the fungal pathogen into a tree. The scale insect inserts a stylet (needle-like mouthpart) through the bark and into the underlying live tissues, and sucks up sugars and other nutrients. The disease causes formation of cankers that can girdle and kill the tree. Beech provides food and habitat for more than 40 species of birds and mammals. Many animals feed on beech nuts in fall and winter, including black bears, gray squirrels, chipmunks, turkeys, and deer. Trees begin to produce substantial numbers of nuts at about age 40. By age 60, large nut crops are produced every 2 to 8 years. This hard mast is especially important in northern forests where oak and hickory are rare.




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