The Copper Beech Tree’s Diagnosis

About a decade ago, the Preservation Society of Newport County faced similar challenges with its storied beech trees along Bellevue Avenue and in other parts of Newport’s mansion district. The culprits were the same—a non-native habitat not ideally suited to the species and pest infestations. 

Phytophthora, a fungus, and Litylenchus crenatae, a kind of roundworm, are both common to the European copper beech, or Fagus sylvatica purpurea, and have shortened the lifespan of the tree in the U.S. to about 120 years at the outside (compared to 300 to 400 years in its native European habitats). 

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst describes the effects of Phytophthora, or bleeding canker, as death of “the bark and outer sapwood tissues of trees and shrubs. The most prominent symptom of the disease is dark-colored sap oozing from bark cankers.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation notes that Litylenchus crenatae, or beech leaf disease, affects and kills both native and ornamental beech tree species. “Symptoms of this disease are seen in the leaves and include striping, curling, and/or leathery texture. These symptoms may be visible from leaf out in May until leaves fall off in October and are most easily noticed by looking up into the forest canopy. In early infestations, only a few leaves may be affected. Eventually, affected leaves wither, dry, and yellow. Reduced leaf and bud production may also occur. Leaf loss has been recorded only in heavily affected trees, but would be noticeable in summer months. A single tree can contain both heavily infected and unaffected branches.”


Do you have a special memory or historical pictures of the Copper Beech you would like to share with the community? Please send them to