The family Fagaceae, includes beeches and oaks, and comprises about 600 species of both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, which are 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.
Fagaceous leaves are often lobed and both petioles and stipules are generally present. 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.
The best-known group of this family is the oaks, genus Quercus, the fruit of which 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. 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 a 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.