(19) Beech

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  • Species
    • Beech
  • Botanical Name
    • Fagus sylvatica
  • Location
    • St Mary's churchyard, Ridgeway gardens
    • Grid Reference: TQ 14889, 55576
    • Latitude, Longitude: 51.287745, -0.353865
    • What3Words: skill.kick.parade
  • Identification
    • Beech trees are imposing trees with a smooth grey trunk often used for carving names and hearts. The leaves are smooth with wavy edges and have parallel veins. They lie horizontally to catch maximum sunlight and so shade the ground beneath, in the autumn the leaves turn rich shades of orange and brown. The leaves take a long time to decompose and carpet the ground beneath helping the autumn colours to linger well into the winter. The beech fruit or "mast" is an untidy hairy brown case which holds the nut. The sound of the beech mast crunching under your feet will tell you that you are walking under a beech tree. A few remain on the tree through the winter as do some of the lower leaves.
  • About this species
    • Beech trees take over where oaks have fallen or been felled. The foliage is so dense that beech woods are dark, with few plants growing on the ground. Bluebells often grow in beech woods and have to bloom and complete their life cycle quickly before the beech leaves are fully developed. Bluebells have bulbs that give them a head start to develop as soon as the ground begins to warm. The thick humus beneath beeches is an excellent habitat for fungus and many species, including truffles, unite with beech roots for the exchange of water (for the beech) and nutrients (for the fungi). The also often have massive bracket fungi on the trunk. Beech is known as the "lover's tree" because of the "notebook" bark. Beech timber is often used in the home and office.
  • Local information
    • Beeches may live several hundred years or more. They were often planted as boundary markers on ancient estates. There are several on the Ridgeway side of the church garden enclosure. There is a grand avenue of beech trees from Bookham to Polesden Lacey. Many of the trees in this avenue fell in the Great Storm of 1987 but have been replaced by the National Trust. Beech wood burns at a high temperature and was used for fuel in ironworks such as those at Abinger Hammer.

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