Monday, April 26, 2010


Contributing Writer - Maisie Hughes
Ongoing Series - Trees of Note

If you have ever spent time in Dumbarton Oaks' gardens you know what it feels like to be surrounded by beautiful trees. This well-kept, historic landscape is the only place I go to see the cherry blossoms because I can avoid the crowds and enjoy the many other stunning trees just awakening from their winter slumber.

Among these natural treasures is a American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) that stands in the middle of its own outdoor room appropriately named the Beech Terrace.

While not the original beech tree the terrace was designed around in the 1920's - the original, a Riversii, was removed in 1948 after a period of decline - this American Beech has flourished in its surroundings and certainly makes Dumbarton Oaks a year round destination.

At 49.5 inches in diameter at breast height, its canopy spans the terrace. It has a smooth, light gray bark and long pointed buds, and when in leaf, makes the dappled sunlight dance across the ground. The exposed shallow roots are simply amazing. They rise above the ground, overlapping each other, creating a textured, lacelike pattern.

The only thing more compelling than the beauty of this American beech is the sense of place you get when you are nestled under its canopy. Because the tree was planted in the center of the terrace, its branches create a living ceiling that changes with the seasons. No matter the time of year, this tree hugs you back.

Visit this Tree of Note!
Dumbarton Oaks
31st and R Streets NW - garden entrance
Washington DC

Beech Tree 101:

  • Location - native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia to southern Ontario, west to Wisconsin, south to northern Florida and eastern Texas
  • Crown - wide spreading oval
  • Height - 50-70' with a maximum height of 120'
  • Foliage - deciduous;
  • Color - silvery green when opening; dark green in summer; golden bronze in fall; leaves can remain into winter
  • Flower - yellow-green flowers; blooms between April and May
  • Fruit - irregularly triangle shaped nut; shiny brown; edible; found in pairs in a woody husk covered in spines
  • Bark - thin; silver-gray; can be compared to elephant skin
  • Landscape use - shade tree; ideal for large spaces

Nominate a Tree of Note! All individuals that nominate a Tree of Note by Arbor Day on Friday, April 30, 2010 will be entered to win a signed copy of City of Trees by Melanie Choukas-Bradley. All Trees of Note can be found on the Casey Trees Map.

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