American Beech is one of the most beloved trees of Eastern North America, a late-successional tree reported in many counties of NC from the mountains to the coast. It is a medium to large tree, growing usually to 80 feet (but observed also at 100 feet tall or more), and can spread between 40 to 70 feet. The bark is very smooth, silver gray, with occasional characteristic lesions. American beech can be easily identified in the winter by its bark, its elongated, pointy vegetative buds with overlapping scales, and its tendency to hold its leaves well into the winter on the juvenile parts of the tree (proximal stems). Beechnuts are edible by people and constitute an important part of the diet of a large number of mammals and birds. Trees usually begin bearing seeds at around 40 years, with a total life span of more like 300 years. American Beech leaves are oval, bright green and shiny in summer, turning shades of gold in fall. It is a climax species that grows slowly underneath an overstory of conifers or hardwoods, eventually ascending into the overstory. Suckering is an important part of its reproductive strategy in the wild.