”’Scientific Name”’: ”Fagus sylvatica”
”’Also known as”’: European Beech
”’Habitat”’: The natural range extends from southern Sweden to northern Sicily, west to France, southern England, northern Portugal, central Spain, and east to northwest Turkey. In the southern part of its range around the Mediterranean, it grows only in mountain forests, at 600–1,800 m (1,969–5,906 ft) altitude.
Though not demanding of its soil type, the European beech has several significant requirements: a humid atmosphere (precipitation well distributed throughout the year and frequent fogs) and well-drained soil (it cannot handle excessive stagnant water). It prefers moderately fertile ground, calcified or lightly acidic, therefore it is found more often on the side of a hill than at the bottom of a clayey basin. It tolerates rigorous winter cold, but is sensitive to spring frost.
A beech forest is very dark and few species of plant are able to survive there, where the sun barely reaches the ground. Young beeches prefer some shade and may grow poorly in full sunlight. In a clear-cut forest a European beech will germinate and then die of excessive dryness. Under oaks with sparse leaf cover it will quickly surpass them in height and, due to the beech’s dense foliage, the oaks will die from lack of sunlight.
Beech is also known as a tree to avoid when camping, because it has a tendency to drop large branches in high winds.
”’Description”’: Fagus sylvatica is a large tree, capable of reaching heights of up to 50 m (160 ft) tall and 3 m (9.8 ft) trunk diameter, though more typically 25–35 m (82–115 ft) tall and up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) trunk diameter. It has a typical lifespan of 150–200 years, though sometimes up to 300 years. In cultivated forest stands trees are normally harvested at 80–120 years of age. 30 years are needed to attain full maturity (as compared to 40 for American beech). Like most trees, its form depends on the location: in forest areas, F. sylvatica grows to over 30 m (100 ft), with branches being high up on the trunk. In open locations, it will become much shorter (typically 15–24 m (50–80 ft)) and more massive.
* ”’Bark”’ – Silvery-grey with greenish tinge particularly when wet. Stays pretty smooth even in relatively large trees, becoming only slightly rough. Can develop light horizontal markings.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Slender, zig-zagging from node to node with alternate buds.
* ”’Buds”’ – Slender, elegant, elongated (2cm), torpedo-shaped, sharp -pointed, obvious scales, reddish brown. Distinctive criss-cross pattern.
* ”’Leaves”’ – Young leaves are lime green with silky hairs, which become darker green and lose their hairs as they mature. They are 4–9cm long, stalked, oval and pointed at the tip, with a wavy edge.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Beech is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree, in April and May. The tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.
* ”’Fruits”’ – the cup becomes woody once pollinated, and encloses one or two beech nuts (known as beechmast). Beech is wind pollinated.
==Pictures throughout the year==
File:20180403_111448C.jpg|Beech leaves in winter
Native truffle fungi grow in beech woods. These fungi are ectomycorrhizal, which means they help the host tree obtain nutrients in exchange for some of the sugar the tree produces through photosynthesis. Remember to take expert advice before picking or eating any wild fungi.
The edible nuts, or masts, were once used to feed pigs, and in France they are still sometimes roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
Young leaves – raw. A very nice mild flavour, they go well in a mixed salad. However, the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed – raw or cooked. A pleasant sweet flavour, though rather small and fiddly. The seed can also be dried and ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc. The seed is rich in oil. The seed should not be eaten in large quantities because it contains a deleterious principle. The seed contains 17 – 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. This stores well without going rancid and is said to be equal in delicacy to olive oil. It is used as a dressing for salads and also for cooking. The seed residue is poisonous.
The bark is antacid, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, odontalgic. A tar (or creosote), obtained by dry distillation of the branches, is stimulating and antiseptic. It is used internally as a stimulating expectorant and externally as an application to various skin diseases. The pure creosote has been used to give relief from toothache, but it should not be used without expert guidance. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Intolerance’, ‘Criticism’ and ‘Passing judgements’.
Due to its dense canopy, rarer plant species are associated with beech woodland, such as box, coralroot bitter-cress, and a variety of orchids including red helleborine. Beech woodland makes an important habitat for many butterflies, particularly in open glades and along woodland rides.
Beech foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths, including the barred hook-tip, clay triple-lines and olive crescent. The seeds are eaten by mice, voles, squirrels and birds.
Because beech trees live for so long they provide habitats for many deadwood specialists such as hole-nesting birds and wood-boring insects. The bark is often home to a variety of fungi, mosses and lichens.
Large quantities of the seed may be toxic.
The young leaves can be picked during periods of fresh growth in spring and mid-summer.
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). Beech leaves have wavy edges with small hairs as opposed to the serrated margins of hornbeam.
*PFAF – https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Fagus+sylvatica
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fagus_sylvatica
*Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/common-beech/