Beech (Fagus) is a genus of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia, and North America. The better known Fagus subgenus beeches are high-branching with tall, stout trunks and smooth silver-grey bark.
Beeches are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers on the same plant. The small flowers are unisexual, the female flowers borne in pairs, the male flowers wind-pollinating catkins. They are produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear. The fruit of the beech tree, known as beechnuts or mast, is found in small burrs that drop from the tree in autumn. They are small, roughly triangular and edible, with a bitter, astringent, or in some cases, mild and nut-like taste. They have a high enough fat content that they can be pressed for edible oil.
The leaves of beech trees are entire or sparsely toothed, from 5-15 cm long and 4-10 cm broad.
The bark is smooth and light grey. The fruit is a small, sharply three-angled nut 10-15 mm long, borne singly or in pairs in soft-spined husks 1.5-2.5 cm long, known as cupules. The husk can have a variety of spine- to scale-like appendages, the character of which is, in addition to leaf shape, one of the primary ways beeches are differentiated. The nuts are edible, though bitter (though not nearly as bitter as acorns) with a high tannin content, and are called beechnuts or beechmast.
A birch is a thin-leaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus Betula, in the family Betulaceae, which also includes alders, hazels, and hornbeams. It is closely related to the beech-oak family Fagaceae. They are a typically rather short-lived pioneer species.
Birch species are generally small to medium-sized trees or shrubs, mostly of northern temperate and boreal climates. The simple leaves are alternate, singly or doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate and stipulate. They often appear in pairs, but these pairs are really borne on spur-like, two-leaved, lateral branchlets. The fruit is a small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alders in that the female catkins are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody, cone-like female alder catkins.
The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long, horizontal lenticels, and often separates into thin, papery plates, especially upon the paper birch. Distinctive colors give the common names gray, white, black, silver and yellow birch to different species.
The buds form early and are full grown by midsummer, all are lateral, no terminal bud is formed; the branch is prolonged by the upper lateral bud. The wood of all the species is close-grained with a satiny texture and capable of taking a fine polish; its fuel value is fair.