Time for a tale
The beech tree
The beech tree can grow up to 40m in height and for many years these beautiful trees have been planted to adorn the verges of our roads and lanes.
A beech tree has an umbrella-like canopy of leaves which limits the amount of rain and light filtering down to the forest floor. This means undergrowth in beech woods is sparse and can only grow where there is less dense foliage. But these woods can be home to some rarer species of flower and insects; find out more here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/common-beech/
If clipped regularly, beech trees create dense hedgerows, which remain leaf-covered through the seasons, providing good habitat for many different wildlife. The Meiklelour beech hedge in Perthshire is the highest in the world: https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/meikleour-beech-hedge-p249401
Uses for beech wood
Beech is a hardwood used to make light-coloured furniture, handles for tools and for some sports equipment. It burns well.
The nuts are a popular winter energy food for many creatures and in the past, during food shortages, beech nuts were ground down to be used for flour. A coffee can be made from roasting the nuts.
The tree, bark, branches, buds and leaves
If given room, beech trees will grow tall and straight:
The bark is skin-like, grey and smooth. The beech is known as the ‘book tree’ as people have sometimes carved their names into the bark:
The layered leaf buds are long, thin and light brown. As spring progresses, the buds fatten and grow:
The emerging leaves are hairy and a delicate green. But as they age, the oval, serrated leaves gradually darken and become smooth:
Some years there are masses of flowers on beech trees, and other years they are sparse. The male and female flowers are seen when the leaves start to appear:
Once the wind has pollinated the female flower, fruit will begin to form – the beech nut:
The beech nut fruit is protected by a hard, hairy case and will fall to the ground in autumn, if not already foraged by birds or animals:
In spring look out for ‘beech babies’ – the first fleshy leaves are tasty in a stir fry:
Young beech seedlings will grow in abundance. They need light to become well established. If spaced well they will grow to maturity and if enough light can penetrate between the trees it will allow other species to thrive too. If you have beech trees near you, look out for these:
Autumn fruit and colour
As the season cools, beech trees become resplendent in colour, their leaves gradually turning from green, to yellow, ochre and brown:
Paths become carpeted with layers of leaves:
And the beech mast – the nuts can be found strewn on the ground:
to be collected, stored and eaten by whichever hungry creature find them:
Thanks for joining me, see you next week 🙂