Fagus ×taurica (syn. ×moesiaca)  ‘Prince of Darkness’

A chance hybrid of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) with Asian beech (Fagus orientalis) was planted decades ago at Trompenburg Arboretum in the Netherlands. Seed from that tree was grown at Starhill Forest. Most seedlings were the typical green form and several were planted to observe. However, one of the seedlings inherited the European purple gene even though the parent tree was not purple. While watching this tree for more than two decades, we just keep finding more reasons to love it!

‘Prince of Darkness’ is ever-changing. It leafs out in spring with a bright red color, quickly changing to the darkest purple (almost black), then eventually settling down to a very deep green. Secondary summer growth again emerges in red. Fall color is copper to gold, fading to brown and holding the foliage late into winter.

This tree has a broad spreading, slightly pendulous form, giving it a very graceful appearance, quite different from its more typical sister seedings that have an ascending branching habit.

While most purple beech cultivars are purely European beech parentage, the Asian species is likely to give this selection improved tolerance to drought and poor soils. The ortet is growing on an eroded, south facing slope and it is clearly thriving!