Identify Beech

BEECH / SPRING / SUMMER / AUTUMN / EDIBLE

COMMON NAMES

Common Beech, European Beech

BOTANICAL NAME

Fagus sylvatica

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Root –  Unknown.

Stems/Bark – They have smooth silver/grey bark.     Leaves – The leaves are lime green, with wavy edges. They are around 5-10 cm long, grow in alternate pairs and are simple.  It is slow to lose its leaves, quite often holding them until the following spring.

Flowers – Beeches are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers. The female flowers grow in pairs and the male flowers produce catkins.

Seeds/Fruit – The nuts or masts are egg shaped and bristly. They open to reveal 1-3 triangular nuts. The quantity of nuts varies massively from year to year.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Fagales
Family – Fagaceae

Genus – Fagus

KNOWN HAZARDS

There is some evidence to suggest that they shouldn’t  be eaten in large quantities as they are toxic to some people.

COULD BE CONFUSED WITH 

Large leaved lime Tilia platyphyllos perhaps but the leaves of this tree are also edible.

RANGE AND DISTRIBUTION

Very common throughout the UK. It is the dominant tree in the woodlands of Southern and Central England.

HABITAT

They prefer well drained, slightly acidic soils.

EDIBLE USES

The young, fresh leaves can be nibbled raw or added to salads.
The leaves are also used to make Noyau a delicious alcoholic beverage.
The nuts or masts were commonly fed to livestock and when roasted make a good coffee substitute, they can also be eaten raw, simply peel off the outer shell.
They can also be pressed to make oil.

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