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Fagus sylvaticaBeech

By Leanne Downs13 April 2019

The common Beech or Fagus sylvatica is one of Britain’s best loved trees, native to southern England and Wales

Where to find Beech Trees

Beech trees are common all over Europe and are naturally found in warmer areas of the continent, although they can be found all over. They prefer well draining soils such as chalk and limestone and are susceptible to frosts.

How to identify Beech Trees

Beech trees are most easily identified by their oval shaped leaves which start lime green with small hairs and darken and lose these hairs with age. They are usually around 4-9cm in size and have wavy edges, a pointed tip and are slightly corrugated in appearance with many pairs of veins that run towards the edge of the leaf from the stem. Be careful not to confuse the leaf with that of Hornbeam, which have similar leaves. The leaves wither but often remain on the tree throughout winter on the lower boughs of the trees and on beech hedges.

Beech trees are also easy to identify by their four lobed seed cases which are small brown and woody with a prickly surface. You will often find these covering the ground in vast quantities which helps you identify the surrounding trees as beech when not in leaf, observed alongside their other features.

In Winter, the twigs of the beach have small brown leaf buds that stick out along them and are very pointy. The flowers are yellow-green, very small and have a slightly fluffy appearance. The bark is often smooth and grey with occasional etchings.

An edible beech nut | Beech leaves have a slight sheen and several pairs of veins extending from the middle

Uses for Beech Trees

The wood from Beech is popular for furniture making and other forms of light woodcraft and carpentry. Beech is popular for use as hedging due to the fact that the leaves are often kept in winter if clipped. Young beech leaves are edible and can be used in salads. Beech nuts have been traditionally used to feed pigs but they are also used to make liquor. Small amounts can be eaten raw but they should be cooked if consuming large amounts due to toxins.

Beech trees can live for hundreds of years and are important for wildlife and create good habitats for many plants and animals, as well as a source of food. They are also important for certain species of fungi that form ectomycorrhizal relationships with them, such as much prized and edible species of truffle.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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