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European Copper Beech

Monticello, West Front with Purple European Beeches

Common Name: European Copper Beech[1]

Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea

In 1807, Jefferson ordered "Purple Beeches" from Thomas Main's nursery in March, then in November, because the first planting failed.[2] Jefferson directed his overseer, Edmund Bacon, to have Wormley Hughes plant them in the southwest and northwest angles of the house at Monticello.[3] One of these trees survived until the 1950s, while the other until the 1970s.

The original purple-leaf beech was discovered in the Hanleiter Forest of Germany before 1772, and it became the most common beech in 19th century gardens.[4]

The copper beech was an early offspring of this wild form with paler leaves. This tree is a pyramidal to rounded tree with large deciduous leaves that unfurl a tender, copper green gradually turning a deep purple bronze with smooth, pewter-hued bark.


  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 342 and 353.
  3. Ibid, 334 and 355.
  4. Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 79.

Further Sources


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