|Fagus sylvatica subsp. var.|
It is a large tree, capable of reaching heights of up to 49 m (160 ft) tall and 3m (10 ft) trunk diameter, though more typically 25-35 m (80-115 ft) tall and up to 1.5 m (5 ft) trunk diameter. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 4 m (13 ft) tall. It has a typical lifespan of 150 to 200 years, though sometimes up to 300 years. The appearance varies according to its habitat; in forest conditions, it tends to have a long, slender light-gray trunk with a narrow crown and erect branches, in isolation with good side light the trunk is short with a large and widely spreading crown with very long branches.
The leaves are alternate, simple, and entire or with a slightly crenate margin, 5-10 cm long and 3-7 cm broad, with 6-7 veins on each side of the leaf (7-10 veins in Fagus orientalis). When crenate, there is one point at each vein tip, never any points between the veins. The buds are long and slender, 15-30 mm long and 2-3 mm thick, but thicker (to 4-5 mm) where the buds include flower buds.
The leaves of beech are often not abscissed in the autumn and instead remain on the tree until the spring. This process is called marcescence. This particularly occurs when trees are saplings but often continues to occur on the lower branches when the tree is mature.
The European Beech starts to flower when it is between 30-80 years old. The flowers are small catkins which appear shortly after the leaves in spring. The seeds, called beechnuts, are small triangular nuts 15-20 mm long and 7-10 mm wide at the base; there are two nuts in each cupule, maturing in the autumn 5-6 months after pollination. Flower and seed production is particularly abundant in years following a hot, sunny and dry summer, though rarely for two years in a row. The nuts are an important food for birds, rodents and in the past also people, although they are only very rarely eaten by man. Slightly toxic to man if eaten in large quantities due to the tannins they contain, the nuts were nonetheless pressed to obtain an oil in 19th century England that was used for cooking and in lamps. They were also ground to make flour, which could be eaten after the tannins were leached out by soaking.
Climate and temperatures vary, though humidity needs to be constant. Little is required of the soil so long as it is well drained. 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 can not 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. In Norway's oceanic climate planted trees grow well as far north as in Trondheim.
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. Foresters may assure the oaks' survival by cutting young beeches with a billhook 10 cm off the ground, which can produce magnificent bonsai.
The root system is shallow, even superficial, with large roots spreading out in all directions. European Beech forms ectomycorrhizas with a range of fungi including members of the genera Amanita, Boletus, Cantharellus, Hebeloma and Lactarius; these fungi are important in enhancing uptake of water and nutrients from the soil.
In the woodlands of southern Britain, beech is dominant over oak and elm south of a line from about north Suffolk across to Cardigan. Oak are the dominant forest trees north of this line. One of the most beautiful European Beech forests called Sonian Forest (Forêt de Soignes/Zoniënwoud) is found in the southeast of Brussels, Belgium. Beech is a dominant tree species in France and constitutes about 10% of French forests.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Fagus sylvatica, Linn. European Beech. Tree, to 80 ft., or rarely 100 ft.: Ivs. ovate or elliptic, remotely denticulate, silky beneath and ciliate when young, with 5-9 pairs of veins, dark green and glossy above, pale beneath, 2—4 in. long: involucre with mostly upright prickles, about 1 in. high. Cent. and S. Eu. Caucasus. A great number of varieties are in cult., of which the following are the most remarkable: Var. pendula, Lodd. With long, pendulous branches, the larger limbs mostly horizontaly spreading.
A form with very dark purple lvs. and of compact habit is var. Riversii. Hort. There are other forms, differing in the shade of purple, as var. cuprea, Hort., and also some with rosy pink variegated lvs. Var. purpurea pendula, Hort., has purple lvs. and pendulous branches, but is of slow growth. Var. Zlatia, Spaeth, has yellow foliage. Var. heterophylla, Loud. (var. asplenifolia, Lodd.). Lvs. deeply cut, often almost to the midrib, into narrow lobes. A very graceful variety, forming a dense and low, shrubby tree.Less important varieties, but sometimes grown,are the following: Var. cristata, Lodd., with deeply toothed, curled, small and clustered lvs.: of slow growth. Var. incisa, Hort. Similar to var. heterophylla, but lvs. less deeply cut. Var. macrophylla, Hort. lvs. large, to 5 in. long. Var.quercifolia, Schelle (var. quercoides, Hort.). With deeply toothed and sinuate, rather narrow lvs. Var. quercoides, Pers., often confused with var. quercifolia, is a form with dark and rough, oak-like bark.
Alfred Rehder. CH
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- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963
- w:Fagus sylvatica. Some of the material on this page may be from Wikipedia, under the Creative Commons license.
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