Common Beech is a fairly widespread tree and is often found in parks and fields. It is native to the UK, although it's natural range is the South and South West of England. It does not like pollution so is not suited as a street tree. It is very easy to identify all year round and the fruit (Beech Nuts) are edible when prepared correctly.
Common beech is a large, deciduous tree which is native to southern England and South Wales. They can live for hundreds of years with coppiced stands living for over a thousand years. Mature Beech trees can grow to a height of more than 40m and develop a huge domed crown. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, sometimes with slight horizontal etchings. The leaf buds form on short stalks and are reddish brown in colour and torpedo-shaped. They have a very distinctive criss-cross pattern.
The leaves are 4–9cm long, oval and pointed at the tip, with a wavy edge. The young leaves are edible and go well in a salad.
The fruit is also known as beech mast. Inside the woody burrs are triangular shaped nuts which are edible (when cooked).
The young leaves are lime green with silky hairs, which become darker green as they mature and less hairy. They are 4–9cm long, stalked, oval and pointed at the tip, with a wavy edge. It is monoecious which means both the male and female flowers grow on the same tree but in different parts. They flower in April and May but with climate change I have seen them flower in late March. The female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup and the tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of the twigs.
Beech requires a humid atmosphere and well-drained soil. It is said to be sensitive to winter frost but the trees and hedges I have come across have always done fine during frosty weather. The natural habitat extends over a large part of Europe from southern Sweden to northern Sicily. Beech woodland is shady and is characterised by a dense carpet of fallen leaves and mast husks, which prevent most woodland plants from growing. Only specialist shade tolerant plants can survive underneath a beech canopy.
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
- Beech can survive over 400 years
- It is a deciduous tree which means it sheds it leaves anually (usually winter time)
- It is also marcescent in nature, which means the dead leaves sometimes stay on the tree
- Beech can reach 80 to 100 feet in height. Multiple slender branches form broad, dome-shaped crown
- Beech blooms in spring, from April to May, shortly after leaves appear. Flowers are pollinated by the wind
- It is monoecious which means both male and female flowers are on the same tree, but different parts
- Bark is light grey or greenish in colour. The bark remains smooth in both young and mature trees
- Beech has oval leaves that are finely toothed on the edges. Newly formed leaves are bright green and covered with hairs. Older leaves don't have hairs and they are dark green in color
- Beech produces fruit known as beechnut or mast. It appears in pairs, located in the spiny husks
- Beech is often planted as a hedge
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