Last updated

Beech family
Quercus ilex rotundifolia.jpg
Holm oak (Quercus ilex subsp. rotundifolia)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Fagaceae
Dumort. [1]
Type genus

See text.

Fagaceae Distribution.svg
The range of Fagaceae.
  • Castaneaceae Brenner
  • Quercaceae Martinov

Fagaceae is a family of flowering plants that includes beeches and oaks, and comprises eight genera with about 927 species. [2] The Fagaceae are deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs, characterized by alternate simple leaves with pinnate venation, unisexual flowers in the form of catkins, and fruit in the form of cup-like (cupule) nuts. Their leaves are often lobed and both petioles and stipules are generally present. Leaf characteristics of Fagaceae can be very similar to those of Rosaceae and other rose motif families. Their fruits lack endosperm and lie in a scaly or spiny husk that may or may not enclose the entire nut, which may consist of one to seven seeds. In the oaks, genus Quercus, the fruit is a non-valved nut (usually containing one seed) called an acorn. The husk of the acorn in most oaks only forms a cup in which the nut sits. Other members of the family have fully enclosed nuts. Fagaceae is one of the most ecologically important woody plant families in the Northern Hemisphere, as oaks form the backbone of temperate forest in North America, Europe, and Asia and one of the most significant sources of wildlife fodder.


Several members of the Fagaceae have important economic uses. Many species of oak, chestnut, and beech (genera Quercus, Castanea, and Fagus, respectively) are commonly used as timber for floors, furniture, cabinets, and wine barrels. Cork for stopping wine bottles and myriad other uses is made from the bark of cork oak, Quercus suber. Chestnuts are the fruits from species of the genus Castanea. Numerous species from several genera are prominent ornamentals, and wood chips from the genus Fagus are often used in flavoring beers.


The Fagaceae are often divided into five or six subfamilies and are generally accepted to include 8 (to 10) genera (listed below). Monophyly of the Fagaceae is strongly supported by both morphological (especially fruit morphology) and molecular data. [3]

The Southern Hemisphere genus Nothofagus, commonly the southern beeches, was historically placed in the Fagaceae sister to the genus Fagus , [4] but recent molecular evidence suggests otherwise. While Nothofagus shares a number of common characteristics with the Fagaceae, such as cupule fruit structure, it differs significantly in a number of ways, including distinct stipule and pollen morphology, as well as having a different number of chromosomes. [5] The currently accepted view by systematic botanists is to place Nothofagus in its own family, Nothofagaceae. [3]

Subfamilies and genera

The Quercus subgenus Cyclobalanopsis is treated as a distinct genus by the Flora of China, but as a subgenus by most taxonomists.

The genus Nothofagus (southern beeches; about 40 species from the Southern Hemisphere), formerly included in the Fagaceae, is now treated in the separate family Nothofagaceae.


The Fagaceae are widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere. Genus-level diversity is concentrated in Southeast Asia, where most of the extant genera are thought to have evolved before migrating to Europe and North America (via the Bering Land Bridge). [6] Members of the Fagaceae (such as Fagus grandifolia , Castanea dentata and Quercus alba in the Northeastern United States, or Fagus sylvatica , Quercus robur and Q. petraea in Europe) are often ecologically dominant in northern temperate forests.


Modern molecular phylogenetics suggest the following relationships: [7] [8]

Nothofagaceae  (outgroup)







Quercus  pro parte


Quercus  pro parte




Related Research Articles

Fagales order of plants

The Fagales are an order of flowering plants, including some of the best-known trees. The order name is derived from genus Fagus, beeches. They belong among the rosid group of dicotyledons. The families and genera currently included are as follows:

Oak genus of plants

An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus of the beech family, Fagaceae. There are approximately 600 extant species of oaks. The common name "oak" also appears in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus, as well as in those of unrelated species such as Grevillea robusta and the Casuarinaceae (she-oaks). The genus Quercus is native to the Northern Hemisphere, and includes deciduous and evergreen species extending from cool temperate to tropical latitudes in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. North America contains the largest number of oak species, with approximately 90 occurring in the United States, while Mexico has 160 species of which 109 are endemic. The second greatest center of oak diversity is China, which contains approximately 100 species.

Chestnut genus of plants

The chestnuts are a group of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the genus Castanea, in the beech family Fagaceae. They are native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

<i>Quercus muehlenbergii</i> species of plant

Quercus muehlenbergii, the chinkapin or chinquapin oak, is a deciduous species of tree in the white oak group. The species was often called Quercus acuminata in older literature. Quercus muehlenbergii is native to eastern and central North America. It ranges from Vermont to Minnesota, south to the Florida panhandle, and west to New Mexico in the United States. In Canada it is only found in southern Ontario, and in Mexico it ranges from Coahuila south to Hidalgo.

Beech Genus of flowering plants in the family Fagaceae

Beech (Fagus) is a genus of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia, and North America. Recent classifications recognize 10 to 13 species in two distinct subgenera, Engleriana and Fagus. The Engleriana subgenus is found only in East Asia, distinctive for their low branches, often made up of several major trunks with yellowish bark. The better known Fagus subgenus beeches are high-branching with tall, stout trunks and smooth silver-grey bark. The European beech is the most commonly cultivated.

Nut (fruit) In botany, type of dry indehiscent fruit

A nut is a fruit composed of an inedible hard shell and a seed, which is generally edible. In general usage, a wide variety of dried seeds are called nuts, but in a botanical context "nut" implies that the shell does not open to release the seed (indehiscent). The translation of "nut" in certain languages frequently requires paraphrases, as the word is ambiguous.

<i>Nothofagus</i> genus of plants

Nothofagus, also known as the southern beeches, is a genus of 43 species of trees and shrubs native to the Southern Hemisphere in southern South America and Australasia. The species are ecological dominants in many temperate forests in these regions. Some species are reportedly naturalised in Germany and Great Britain. The genus has a rich fossil record of leaves, cupules, and pollen, with fossils extending into the late Cretaceous period and occurring in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and South America. In the past, they were included in the family Fagaceae, but genetic tests revealed them to be genetically distinct, and they are now included in their own family, the Nothofagaceae.

<i>Lithocarpus</i> Genus of plants

Lithocarpus is a genus in the beech family, Fagaceae. Trees in this genus are commonly known as the stone oaks and differ from Quercus primarily because they produce insect-pollinated flowers on erect spikes and the female flowers have short styles with punctate stigmas. The World Checklist accepts 334 species, all restricted to Southeast Asia. These trees do not tolerate freezing temperatures, because all species are evergreen and none are found in temperate zones, despite the lack of any geographic barrier to dispersal in the subtropical zone of East Asia. They extend from the foothills of the Hengduan mountains, where they form dominant stands of trees, through Indochina and the Malayan Archipelago, crossing Wallace's Line and reaching Papua. In general, these trees are most dominant in the uplands and have many ecological similarities to the Dipterocarpaceae, the dominant lowland tree group. These trees are also obviously intolerant of seasonal droughts, not being found on the Lesser Sunda islands, despite their ability to cross numerous water barriers to reach Papua.

<i>Chrysolepis</i> genus of plants

Chrysolepis is a small genus of plants in the family Fagaceae, endemic to the western United States. Its two species have the common name chinquapin. The genus occurs from western Washington south to the Transverse Ranges in Southern California, and east into Nevada.

<i>Castanopsis</i> genus of plants

Castanopsis, commonly called chinquapin or chinkapin, is a genus of evergreen trees belonging to the beech family, Fagaceae. The genus contains about 120 species, which are today restricted to tropical and subtropical eastern Asia. A total of 58 species are native to China, with 30 endemic; the other species occur further south, through Indochina to Indonesia, mountainous areas of Taiwan, and also in Japan. The English name chinkapin is shared with other related plants, including the golden chinkapins of the Pacific United States, which are sometimes included within Castanopsis but are more often considered a separate but very closely related genus, Chrysolepis.

An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus in the plant family Fagaceae.

Calybium and cupule

The calybium and the cupule make up the accessory fruit of flowering plants in the family Fagaceae. These two parts derive from different flower components.

<i>Quercus humboldtii</i> species of plant

Quercus humboldtii, commonly known as the Andean oak, Colombian oak or roble, is a species of oak in the beech family found only in Colombia and Panamá. It is named for Alexander von Humboldt. It grows in the mountains with an altitudinal range from 1,000 to 3,200 m. It is found on all three Colombian Andean mountain ranges and some lowland inter-Andean regions.

Quercus asymmetrica is the accepted name of an endemic oak tree species in the Asian sub-genus of 'ring-cupped oaks' and the family Fagaceae. It is found in China and northern Vietnam.

<i>Notholithocarpus</i> species of plant

Notholithocarpus densiflorus, commonly known as the tanoak or tanbark-oak, is a broadleaf tree in the family Fagaceae, native to the western United States, in California as far south as the Transverse Ranges, north to southwest Oregon, and east in the Sierra Nevada. It can reach 40 m (130 ft) tall in the California Coast Ranges, and can have a trunk diameter of 60–190 cm (24–75 in).

<i>Quercus delgadoana</i> species of plant

Quercus delgadoana is an endangered species of oak in the family Fagaceae, found in eastern Mexico. It was originally misidentified as other members of the genus Quercus, but was determined as a new species in 2011.

Lithocarpus encleisacarpus is a tree in the beech family Fagaceae. The specific epithet is from the Greek meaning "enclosed fruit", referring to the acorns and cupules.. The cupule is not fused to the nut though and often becomes irregularly dehiscent. The degree to which the nut is enclosed by the cupule varies across its geographic range. Trees in Lithocarpus are commonly known as the stone oaks and differ from Quercus primarily because they produce insect-pollinated flowers.

Lithocarpus kalkmanii is a tree in the beech family Fagaceae. This species is named for the Dutch botanist Cornelis Kalkman.. Trees in Lithocarpus are commonly known as the stone oaks and the common name for this species would be Kalkman's stone oak. This species has not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Lithocarpus revolutus is a tree in the beech family Fagaceae. The name is derived from the way in which the margins of the leaves are typically rolled in upon themselves (revolute). Trees in Lithocarpus are commonly known as the stone oaks and differ from Quercus primarily because they produce insect-pollinated flowers.


  1. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x . Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  2. Christenhusz, M. J. M. & Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. Magnolia Press. 261 (3): 201–217. doi: 10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1 .
  3. 1 2 Judd, Walter S., Christopher S. Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Peter F. Stevens, Michael J. Donoghue. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach Third Edition. Sinauer Associates, inc. Sunderland, MA 2008.
  4. Cronquist, Arthur. An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press: New York, NY 1981.
  5. Takhtajan, Armen. Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York 1997.
  6. Manos PS, Stanford AM (2001). "The historical biogeography of Fagaceae: Tracking the tertiary history of temperate and subtropical forests of the Northern Hemisphere". International Journal of Plant Sciences. 162 (Suppl. 6): S77–S93. doi:10.1086/323280.
  7. Manos PS, Cannon CH, Oh S-H (2008). "Phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic status of the paleoendemic Fagaceae of Western North America: recognition of a new genus, Notholithocarpus" (PDF). Madroño . 55 (3): 181–190. doi:10.3120/0024-9637-55.3.181. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-03-19.
  8. Xiang X-G, Wang W, Li R-Q, Lin L, Liu Y, Zhou Z-K, Li Z-Y, Chen Z-D (2014). "Large-scale phylogenetic analyses reveal fagalean diversification promoted by the interplay of diaspores and environments in the Paleogene". Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 16 (3): 101–110. doi:10.1016/j.ppees.2014.03.001.