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European Copper Beech

Monticello, West Front with Purple European Beeches

Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea

Common Name: European Copper Beech

In 1807, Thomas Jefferson ordered "Purple Beeches" from Thomas Main's nursery in March and again in November, after the first planting failed.1 Jefferson directed his overseer, Edmund Bacon, to have Wormley Hughes plant them in the southwest and northwest angles of the house at Monticello.2 One of these trees survived until the 1950s, while the other lived 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 nineteenth century gardens.3 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.

- Peggy Cornett, n.d.

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