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Family: Fagaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Fagales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • OAK FAMILY - English, United States of America
  • BEECH FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Trees or shrubs with male flowers in catkins; fruit an acorn (= a nut subtended or enveloped by a cupule-involucre or cup of wholly or partly fused bracts); leaves alternate, simple, often lobed or toothed, with straight pinnate veins; buds clustered at tips of twigs. The cupule is characteristic of the family; in the genus Castanea (CHESTNUTS and CHINQAPINS-1 species in e TX) it is spiny and completely surrounds the nuts.


Notes: An economically very important family of 600-800 species in 9 genera (Nixon 1997a); cosmopolitan in distribution except in the tropics and s Africa; often vegetational dominants in n hemisphere temperate forests; usually wind-pollinated trees and shrubs, most with large amounts of tannins. Many species are utilized as a source of hardwood lumber, as ornamental trees, or for their edible nuts. North American genera include Castanea (CHESTNUT), Castanopsis (CHINQUAPIN), Fagus (BEECH), Lithocarpus (TAN OAK, TAN-BARK OAK), and Quercus (OAK). Castanea dentata (Marshall) Borkh. (AMERICAN CHESTNUT), of the e U.S., was virtually wiped out in the first half of the 20th century by chestnut blight, caused by an introduced Old World fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica (Murrill) Barr [Endothia parasitica (Murrill) H.W. & P.J. Anderson]). The botanical journal, Castanea, published by the Appalachian Botanical Club, is named after C. dentata (Brooks 1937). The distribution of the s hemisphere genus Nothofagus (SOUTHERNBEECH), in New Guinea, New Caledonia, temperate Australia, New Zealand, and temperate South America, in part reflects the different distribution of the continents during Tertiary times caused by plate tectonics; while this genus has traditionally been placed in Fagaceae, molecular evidence indicates that it should be recognized in its own family, Nothofagaceae (Manos et al. 1993). Family name from Fagus, BEECH, a mainly n temperate genus of 10 species of deciduous monoecious trees. (Classical Latin name, derived from Greek: figos, an oak with edible acorns, probably from Greek fagein, to eat-Nixon 1997a) (subclass Hamamelidae)