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Last edited 18 Oct 2022
The Common Beech (fagus sylvatica) is only considered a native tree to southern England and Wales. It grows in woods or as single trees, usually on drier, free-draining soil such as chalk downs or acidic soils, seeking water.
Beech woodland is shady with dense fallen leaves and mast husks preventing most plants from growing. The beech carries a shade wider than most, except holly (ilex spp) or yew (taxus spp) but can grow under other trees. Only shade-tolerant plants can survive beneath a beech canopy, Its smooth, silvery trunk can be beautiful.
The tallest recorded beech tree in England is 150ft and beech can reach 20 feet around at their stem. the average life span is around 250 years, with the oldest said to be over 320 years old. It can host a large number of wood decay fungi, pests and diseases meaning mature trees can die quite quickly if infected.
It is seen as a feminine tree, the queen, where oak is king. In Celtic mythology, Fagus was the god of beech trees, thought to have medicinal properties leaves were boiled to help relieve swelling. Forked beech twigs are also traditionally used for divining.
It is monoecious, which means both male and female flowers grow on the same tree, tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup. Once wind pollinated the cup, contains one or two beech nuts (known as beechmast).
Beech woodland is an important habitat for butterflies, and food for the caterpillars. Seeds are eaten by mice, voles, squirrels and birds. Native truffle fungi also grow beneath these trees which help obtain nutrients in exchange for sugars from the tree (ectomycorrhizal)
Beech trees can be pollarded or coppiced, the wood traditionally being used to manufacture furniture as well as flooring, veneers, boatbuilding, cabinets, plywoods, piano parts and other musical instruments. It is a hard and strong wood but cannot withstand moisture, so it is not durable externally and is mostly used for interiors. In the UK, traditionally the bodgers of the Chilterns pollarded greenwood beech, using the craft of wood turning on site to form slim furniture legs which were then sold to the local furniture manufacturers in the area.
- Common Name(s): European beech, common beech
- Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica
- Distribution: Europe
- Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
- Average Dried Weight: 44.3 lbs/ft3 (710 kg/m3)
- Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.53, 0.71
- Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,460 N)
- Modulus of Rupture: 15,970 lbf/in2 (110.1 MPa)
- Elastic Modulus: 2,075,000 lbf/in2 (14.31 GPa)
- A guide to the use of urban timber FB 50.
- Birch wood.
- Forest Stewardship Council.
- Lime wood.
- Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
- Timber vs wood.
- Types of timber.
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