Western and Central Europe, including Britain.
It grows to a height of 30m or more, with an average diameter of 1,2m. In close forest the smooth columnar bole may be clear of branches for 15m, more often about 9m.
A general utility hardwood of plain appearance, usually straight grained and of fine, even texture. Timber grown in Britain is whitish of pale-brown, but much of the continental timber is steamed immediately after conversion – which gives it a warm reddish-brown colour. Darker-coloured, irregular markings (‘rotkern’ or ‘red heart’) are quite a common feature of Central European beech. Flat-sawn timber and rotary-cut plywood have practically no figure, though the rays, visible as dark lines or flecks against the lighter background, are characteristic. On quarter-sawn material, especially if the wood is given a natural finish, the rays are more prominent, producing a small, but nevertheless decorative, silver grain figure. Typically hard and dense, averaging about 0,72 in the seasoned condition; it is also lighter and more uniform in colour.
In the seasoned condition beech is superior to oak in bending strength, stiffness, hardness and resistance to impact and splitting. It is an exceptionally good wood for steam-bending purposes even when minor defects such as small knots and irregularities of the grain are present.
In the natural condition the timber is not resistant to insect and fungal attack. Normally it responds well to preservative treatment by the hot and cold open-tank process, or under pressure, but the darker-coloured heartwood which commonly occurs in some continental beech is resistant to impregnation.
In general, beech works fairly readily and finishes well in most hand and machine operations, particularly in turning. For mass production purposes, where ease of working is the main consideration, the milder wood from Central and Southern Europe is often preferred. Beech peels well and the cylindrical shape of the logs lends itself to rotary cutting for plywood. It can be glued without difficulty and can be stained to match with oak, mahogany or walnut.
It is the most widely used wood in the furniture industry, particularly for chairs. Preferred timber for brush backs, tool handles, parts of textile and other machinery, piano wrest planks, and a wide range of turned articles. As flooring, beech is suitable for heavy pedestrian traffic and for the light industrial type of factory.