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Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Identification

BEECH / SPRING / SUMMER / AUTUMN / EDIBLE

COMMON NAMES

Common Beech, European Beech


BOTANICAL NAME

Fagus sylvatica


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.


PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

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.

Beech Leaf

Flowers

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

Leaf buds

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.

Beech Nut

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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