Prune American Beech

Asked April 21, 2018, 10:47 AM EDT

We live near the county office buildings in Ellicott City. We transplanted an American beech from a somewhat shaded area under a power line to the middle of our yard about a month ago. We trimmed the roots a few times in the last year to prepare for the transplant. We have new leaves sprouting on most branches so we feel the transplant was a success. We have 2 branches that seem to be competing to be the main trunk. I've attached 2 pics showing the tree. Our question is, should we prune one of the upright branches?

Howard County Maryland

6 Responses

Yes, decide which of the two main stems is the most upright and vigorous. (That is usually the tallest one.) That will be your central leader. You will want to completely remove the other, competing, main stem, but don't remove it all yet--the tree is getting re-established and needs all the leaf surface area it can get.

For now, reduce the height of the stem that is not going to be the central leader by cutting it back to 3-4 inches below the top of the central leader. Keep it lower that the central leader for the next couple of years as your central leader becomes more dominant. Eventually, remove it altogether.


I need some additional assistance. Based on the growth rate I no longer think this is a beech. I've enclosed 3 pictures. The tree looks like it wants to be a weeping tree. The height at the top of the curve is about 7 feet. The taller support poles are around 5 feet tall, local deer eat anything. Any ideas?

We think this might be a Zelkova. It doesn't weep, but becomes a vase-shaped tree. The arching is likely because the growth is so new and pliable.
Zelkovas were introduced to the nursery trade as a kind of replacement for the Elm, which were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease years ago.


We're a little disappointed, we were looking to have an
American Classic. We'd never heard of a Zelcova. After a little bit of research, seeing the pictures of the mature trees, we're excited to see it grow. Thanks for your help, I never would have looked at this tree!

Dan and Amy McGuire

We decided to follow up on this. The bark and leaves look like Zelkova. The annual growth rate from what we can see via research is about 2 feet per year. The attached picture shows a board about 7 feet long. The tree is about 15 feet tall. The growth rate on this about 7 feet per year. Our intention was to plant a tree that would mature gracefully, Norway/Sugar maple, along those lines. The Beech sounded like a good option. Just out of curiosity we're going to let it grow for a couple of years, see what we get. Do you still think this is a Zelkova?

Yes, this still looks to us like a Japanese Zelkova. Their rate of growth is considered fast in youth -- about 4' per year on young trees.