Tree 13– 20 m. Bark smooth, dark grey. Buds to 1.5 cm. Leaves 3–7 × 2–3 cm, rhomboid-ovate to elliptic, covered with silky pubescence when young, glabrescent except for glandular dots and tufts of hair on midvein and on axils of secondary veins below, lateral veins in 5–9(–10) pairs, ending in teeth, base broadly cuneate to nearly rounded, apex acute to shortly acuminate; petiole 5 mm. Peduncle 0.5–2 cm, pilose. Cupule 7–10 mm; bracts linear, recurved, 1–3 mm, pilose. Nut as long as cupule, with very small wings near apex. Flowering April to May, fruiting August-October (Taiwan). (Huang, Zhang & Bartholomew 1999; Li 1963).
Habitat Ridge-top forests, 1300–2300 m
USDA Hardiness Zone 6
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note We retain the traditional view of F. hayatae as a Taiwanese endemic, following Lu & Pan (1998). The Flora of China Huang et al. (1999) consider that populations of similar beeches in Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Sichuan (Fagus pashanica C.C. Yang), and Zhejiang (F. hayatae var. zhejiangensis M.C. Liu & M.H. Wu ex Y.T. Chang & C.C. Huang) also belong to this species, noting however that there are small morphological distinctions between the three disparate poulations. The World Checklist of Fagaceae (Govaerts et al. 2020) also considers populations in Sichuan and Zhejiang referable to F. hayatae, but not, apparently, those in Hubei, Hunan and Shaanxi. Lu & Pan (1998) suggest these mainland poulations may be referable to F. lucida.
In October 1992 Mark Flanagan and Tony Kirkham made Fagus hayatae a focus of their collecting efforts in Taiwan, and the story of its ultimate discovery is recalled in Plants from the Edge of the World (Flanagan & Kirkham 2005). A graphic picture is painted of relict populations surving on ridge tops, threatened by competition from evergreen species and a failure to regenerate. The pressure from the broad-leaved evergreens was attributed to climate change, making the point that mountain-top species have nowhere higher to go if their niche becomes occupied by other species. They found no seeds, but one scion was succesfully grafted at Kew and has grown into a small tree that flushes with purplish new growth (T. Kirkham pers. comm 2018). Grafts work well on F. sylvatica and small numbers of individuals have been distributed to other British collections. Seeds subsequently received at Kew from the Taipei Botanic Garden and Forest Research Institute Taiwan have also done well, enhancing the cultivated population of the species.
As a small- to medium-sized tree with dainty leaves that flush purple, and turn coppery-brown in autumn, it would seem that F. hayatae has much to offer, but its long-term performance remains to be assessed.