Trees And Shrubs

Common Beech Fagus sylvatica L.

Fagaceae

The common beech is widespread in western, central and southern Europe, but absent in the northern and eastern parts with severe winters. In the mountains, it occurs even at elevations above 1000 metres. It is a shade-tolerant and vigorous tree that frequently grows in pure stands, but also occurs in mixed stands together with the spruce and fir, and, at lower altitudes, with the oak, hornbeam, and other broad-leaved trees. It attains a height of 30 to 40 metres and develops a long, smooth, silver-grey trunk with a high broad crown. The pointed buds are elongate, measuring 15 to 20 mm in length, and stand away from the twig. The leaves are alternate. Beech woods are a lovely sight, in spring with their fresh green foliage, and in autumn when the leaves have turned a golden bronze. The male and female flowers appear in May, the seeds — polished red-brown nuts — mature in October, dropping to the ground, where they are eaten by forest animals. In former times pigs were herded into beech woods to feed on the nuts. The beech is a slow-growing tree whose fallen leaves enrich the soil and in certain areas it is marked by abundant natural propagation by seed. The hard wood is used to make furniture, parquet flooring, sleepers and cellulose. Its ornamental forms are often planted in parks.

Leaves: Ovate, 5—10 cm long, with entire to sinuate margin. Flowers: Male in globose, stalked heads, female in two-flowered spike surrounded by an involucre. Fruit: 1-cm-long nut, triangular in cross section, borne in pairs within a woody, spiny cupule which splits into 4 segments.

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