This large (80 ft) American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) is characterized by its smooth, gray bark and its alternatively placed, shiny, elliptical leaf with pointed tip and toothed edges. In contrast to the European or common beech (Fagus sylvatica), which has less than 10 pairs of veins, the American beech leaf exhibits 11 to 15 pairs of veins. The fruit is a dry brown husk covered in dense bristle and containing one to three nuts. The nuts are an important source of food for many forest animals. The root system is shallow and extensive, often producing suckers from the spread roots, crowding out nearby trees. Beech trees are very shade tolerant and like the sugar maple and hemlock are found in climax forests. This tree may live for 300 to 400 years. It is easy to understand why this tree’s nickname is the sweetheart tree.