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Fagaceae: Beech Family Plant Identication Characteristics.

Plants of the Beech Family

Comparison of oak and chestnut leaves.

      Members of the Beech family are trees or shrubs, either deciduous or evergreen. The leaves are simple, alternate and often, but not always, lobed like the oak leaf shown here. The flowers are typically unisexual, with both male and female flowers appearing on the same plant (monoecious). Staminate (male) flowers have 4 to 6 sepals, 0 petals and 4 to 40 stamens. The pistillate (female) flowers have 4 to 6 sepals and 0 petals. The ovary is positioned inferior and consists of 3 (sometimes 6) united carpels (syncarpous) forming a single chamber. Usually only one ovule is fertilized; it matures as a nut, usually attached to a scaly or spiny cap formed of numerous small, overlapping bracts.

      Worldwide, there are 8 genera and approximately 900 species in the family. Five genera are native to North America, including the chinquapin (Chrysolepis), tanbark oak (Lithocarpus) and the chestnut (Castanea). Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak, Quercus suber. The members of this family contain varying amounts of tannic acid, making them astringent and diuretic.

Key Words: Trees or shrubs with single nuts attached to scaly or spiny caps.

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Quercus gambelii. Gambel Oak.

Quercus gambelii. Gambel Oak. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Utah.

Castanea dentata. American Chestnut.

Castanea dentata. American Chestnut.

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Beech Family pictures

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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