Beech trees

Information sheet

The common beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a native tree in southern Britain and is widely cultivated throughout the United Kingdom. It is a large decidous tree and is often grown as a hedging plant.

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Description

Beech trees usually grow on free draining soils such as chalk, limestone and light loams. Beech trees can grow up to 40 metres in height. They produce bright green young leaves in the spring and stunning autumn colour. Copper or purple beech trees are sometimes grown in ornamental situations and have very distinctive foliage.

Beech leaves make fantastic leaf mould or compost for gardeners.

How to grow Beech trees

Beech trees are wind pollinated and have both male and female flowers on the same tree. It's tassle like male catkins hang from the tips of twigs in April or May whilst the female flowers are surrounded by a cup which eventually will become beech nuts or masts as they are known.

Beech trees are large and care must be taken when planting to allow enough room for them to grow, fastigiate or slim, columnar forms are available. If planted as a hedge beech need annual trimming to keep them in shape.

Wildlife

Because it provides a dense canopy only specialist plant species can survive in its shade, these include native orchids and the box plant (Buxus). Birds and animals may feed on fallen beech nuts including mice, voles and squirrels. Beech trees are an important habitat for many butterflies and it's foliage is food for a number of moth caterpillars.

Beech trees are long lived so they provide dead wood as specialist wildlife habitat. This includes hole nesting birds and wood boring insects as well as fungi, mosses and lichens.


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