Beech, Fagus sylvatica

tree of the family Fagaceae because the fruit is supported in a "cupule"
(Spanish chestnut, Oak, Beech)

Etymology: the french word "hêtre" is a Germanic name appeared to the XIIIth century. The other name "Fayard" comes from Latin "Fagus", which also gave Fau, Fou, Faouet, Fage, "fouet" (whip), "fouine" (weasel). The Beech was unknown from Greeks. The forest of beeches is a beech wood.
Origin: Central Europe.
Species :
Beech heterophyllous (leaves laciniated), Fagus sylvatica asplenifolia.
Beech of Chile, Nothofagus antarctica (small leaves).
Oriental Beech, Fagus orientalis, from which the leaf distinguishes itself from that of the Beech, by a longer petiole, a base in V, and the absence of hair on the margin of the blade.
American Beech, Fagus grandifolia, with somewhat longer leaves (12 cm against 10 cm at its European cousin), but especially, they have edges with big pointed teeth (a bit as the chestnut).
Very plastic, the beech allowed many cultivars (horticultural varieties) with particular leaves :
- Copper Beech (leaves purple),
- Beech with oak leaves,
- Whining gold Beech,
- Beech of Spar, Fagus sylvatica Zlatia. It has feature to carry leaves of yellow colour, in summer, which turn to green then to reddish-brown at autumn.

Habitat: The Beech is quite indifferent to the soil, limestone or quartz, rich or poor. Essence of Shadow, Beech produces a dense canopy that shades the undergrowth and hampers its development. It needs humidity but it fears the soil too wet. It is sensitive to extreme cold and extreme heat. The Beech thrives in the North part of France, notably in Normandy. In the South of the Loire river, it is present in Massif central and the Western Pyrenees. In mountain, it is found along with the Fir, up to 1700 metres in altitude. The Beech covers 9 % of French forests, behind the oak and the sylvan pine (see the distribution map of the French forest).
Hardiness: zone 6 (the Beech supports medium minimal temperatures of -20 °C or -4 °F.)
Lifespan of the common beech: 300 years. Rare plants are listed as having achieved 1000 years (in East of France).

(insulated tree): ovoid crown. Branches are plagiotropics (they grow to the horizontal).
Roots: above-surfaces. A storm can make wobble the tall beech trees.
Height: 30-40 m (common Beech and East Beech). Its diameter attains 1,5 m tall.
Rate of Growth: slow. Trees with slow growth are characterised by a dense and hard wood.
Slim, smooth bark (as elephant elephant legs !), light grey. Cylindrical trunk.
Grayish homogeneous, white wood with ruddy yellow, and dense. After the cut, it takes colour in ruddy. It is necessary to debit him and to dry it at once to avoid the attack of mushrooms. The Beech growing on calcareous fields gives a wood of better quality than the one which grows on siliceous fields (nervous wood with strong withdrawal).

Deciduous foliage. Leaves (9 cm) in arrangement alternate and distichous, in May. They are stalked, ovate, hairy, wavy edges.
The leaf of Hornbeam can be confused with that of charm, but remeber the Hornbeam has teeth, the beech hair.
Such as Fagaceae, they are marcescent. Colour green shining on the top.

: the Beech flourishes in April-May. The male, yellow flowers, in small catkins stalked (3-5 cm) with hirsute hairiness, and the female, green flowers, in short peduncle, form separated groups.
Fruits: these are akenes, named "beechnuts", grouped by 3 or 4 in a ruffled cupule.

Legends and traditions:
For the Romans, the Beech is Jupiter tree. In Celtic astrology, the beech is materialist, reasonable... The Beech is described in the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (written between 1751 and 1772 under the direction of Diderot).
Literature: the God Beech, poem of Jose Maria de Heredia.
From the fruit of beech (the beechnut), we extract an edible oil (50 kg of Beechnut are needed to produce 10 liters). But its envelope contains a toxic principle (giving headaches and convulsions). In addition, Beechnut oil is hard to preserve. Like the acorn of Oak, Beech-Nut is appreciated by wild game and pigs. Formerly, the forest administration granted the right to "Panag" allowing farmers to carry pigs in the forest to eat beechnuts beech.
The beech wood is hard, homogeneous, but it lacks flexibility. Flexibility is improved by steam heating. In "standing timber" (not debited), one makes logs for butchers. The beechwood accepts turning (toys, chair legs), dyeing and polishing. Because of its homogeneity, the beech wood was much used by Boisselier, turners, manufacturers of complex parts. It was also in the old clothespins our grandmothers, before the invasion of polymers. Today it is used in carpentry (furniture, flooring) provided that sthey are carefully dried (tendency to removal). Beech equips 14% of furniture made in France, just behind the oak.
We also make: cross railroad, particle board, pulp and paper, toys, cooperage, tool handles. It can be held for plywood.
It is also a very good firewood. The flame is bright and clear. Coal is Glowing until complete combustion. Beech Coal was used for steel making minerals.
Of its wood, by incomplete combustion, the "creosote", with strong smell is extracted from some tar, and, by distillation. The creosote serves for treating the external woods (electrical posts, sleepers of railways), by impregnation, possibly under vacuum. The créosol is an oil extracted from some creosote; it is used as antiseptic of wounds, dental decays.
Ashes of beech wood entered the composition of craft soap. The beech is one of the best woods, with the fir and the broom, for smoking pork and beef meats, or andouilles of Normandy.

Feature: the roots of the beech are superficial. They live in symbiosis with mushrooms which give nutritious salts and accept carbon hydroxides. On the other hand, the thick shade which reigns at the foot of beech prevents the development of undergrowth.
Diseases: since 1980, the beech is attacked by mushrooms and cochineal insects. It also suffers from drought.

A remarkable variety is the Fau of Verzy:

Fagus sylvatica var tortuosa
it is natural in the forest of Verzy, in the Southeast of Reims.
Lifespan: 500 years.
Form: crown in dome. Branches are twisted, in right angle, and the low branches brush the soil where they can take root (layering).
Height: 10 m tall.
For the rest, the bark, leaves and fruits are identical to those of the common beech.

Fagus sylvatica var tortuosa

Of the same genus:

Beech of Chile or Nothofagus antarctica
South America, Australia, New Zealand.
Height: 15 - 30 m according to species (nice copy of high Nothofagus procera of about twenty metres in Kew Gardens). But in France, it rarely exceeds 4-5 m tall.
Exfoliating, cracked, dark brown bark by flakes. Its leaves are tiny (2 cm), dark green, wavy margin.

Nothofagus antarctica

Nothofagus nervosa

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