Zehr Estate


Copper/Purple European Beech
(Fagus sylvatica Purpurea Group)

The European Copper Beech, "Entrancing East Empress" at Zehr Estate is always a featured stop when touring the grounds.

Tree Stats Include (2010):

  • 19'4" trunk diameter
  • 96' wide canopy
  • 62' tall
  • Age - not sure, but we feel it was planted when the house was built. The location, and type of tree lead us to this conclusion.

    Although this tree can not be entered into the National or NY State Large Tree Registry because it is not a native species of the United States, we did take measurements and did the calculations. With a score of 318 points, it would appear to rank...

    4th largest in NY on the National Tree Registry
    19th largest in NY on the NY State Tree Registry
    1st by 33 points of largest trees in Tioga County NY

    Of course, this is only speculation, other non native trees or unregistered trees may change this ranking.

    Points are calulated using three measurements:
    (1) Trunk Circumference (measured in inches)
    (2) Vertical Tree Height (measured to the nearest foot)
    (3) Average Crown Spread (measured to the nearest foot).
    Trunk Circumference + Height + Average Crown Spread = Total Points
    232" + 62' + 24' = 318 points

    We believe this massive European Copper Beech tree was planted by the Slaughter family in the late 1870's, possibly in 1879, when Samuel Slaughter was making changes at his estate. During this time period European Copper Beech trees were known to be trees of the wealthy families. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, many of the great estates planted the Copper Beech trees. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were both admirers of this magestic looking tree. At his home, Montecello, Thomas Jefferson had planted these trees. Abraham Lincoln was said to have enjoyed relaxing under a Copper Beech tree at Washington, D. C. {"It was a place where the President could sit beneath the canopy of a beautiful copper beech tree, to go again through the books of poetry he loved so or drop the books and follow his son Tad up into the cradle of the tree's great limb. That tree is just behind the cottage here. I saw it when I arrived, and I walked beneath its canopy just as President Lincoln did almost 140 years ago. It is still very much alive, standing proudly and, I might add now, because it is three centuries old, it is our last living link to Abraham Lincoln."}which was later proved untrue. {"Unfortunately the old tree died in the early 2000s and when it was dated by tree experts, they determined it was 140 years old at the absolute oldest. This does not, however, mean that the story itself is untrue, just that that particular Copper Beech is not the one of legend."} But others say he did enjoy reading under a beech tree in Illinois.

    Our tree is very fascinating with its elephant like appearance, being with a smooth light gray bark, yet wrinkled in parts to resemble the folds of an elephant's skin. Its several spreading branchings appear to be like the trunks of separate trees. The roots showing above surface also add to the elephant like appearance. The beautiful purple to copper color of the new leaves in the spring is breathtaking! This tree has higher levels of the pigment anthocyanin which hides the green color of the pigment chlorophyll, especially in the sun lit areas. As summer comes to an end, the leaves appear more green in color, but still have a purple hint on the edge of the leaves. In the autumn, the leaves turn a brilliant golden yellow. After all the other surrounding trees have lost their leaves, the leaves of this tree are still hanging onto this massive beech tree. In winter and into the early spring there are still several brittle dead leaves hanging on from the previous year.

    Under this gorgeous tree, in 2010 when we purchased the property, there was no grass or living plants under this tree except for a touch of myrtle, otherwise there was loose dry dirt, which is very common under this type and age of tree which is highly shaded. We are experimenting under this tree and landscaped it with several loads of mulch and planted some hosta and shade plants. The hosta plants are doing very well. We then planted ferns which also have come back year after year. This tree needs good drainage and the mulch helped with that. It is not adviced to have heavy foot traffic under this tree, for the more foot traffic, the more compact the soil would become, leading to less drainage. The roots of this tree need plenty of oxygen and drainage. We next transplanted some of the myrtle to another area under the tree to help with spreading it as ground cover. What we didn't plant are all the grape vines and Virginia creeper and other vines and unwanted plants/weeds. The area under the tree is now thriving with all sorts of plant life, good and bad.

    Today, these trees are widely available and are becoming a favorite landscaping choice.

    "For years my mother coveted a Copper Beech tree - I wonder if it was because of yours. Anyway, we finally gave her one at 416." Rebecca Robinson Abele Jan. 15, 2011. Referring to the tree planted to the east side of the home at 416 Chemung st. Waverly, NY.

    Video of Zehr Estate's European Copper Beech
    Victorian Estate youtube channel. Please subscribe.

  • Zehr Estate . Waverly NY 14892 . zehrestate.com
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