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Fagus sylvatica - L.

Common Name Beech, European beech, Common Beech
Family Fagaceae
USDA hardiness 4-7
Known Hazards Large quantities of the seed may be toxic[65, 76].
Habitats Grows in woodlands where it is often the dominant species, especially on chalky and soft limestone soils, though sometimes also on well-drained loams and sands[13, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain, Greece, W. Russia and the Crimea.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Fagus sylvatica Beech, European beech, Common Beech


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Fagus sylvatica Beech, European beech, Common Beech
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Summary

Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Oval.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Fagus sylvatica is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Synonyms

Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Oil.

Young leaves - raw[183]. A very nice mild flavour, they go well in a mixed salad. However, the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used[2, 5, 12, K]. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed - raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 63, 183]. A pleasant sweet flavour, though rather small and fiddly[K]. The seed can also be dried and ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc[12]. The seed is rich in oil. The seed should not be eaten in large quantities because it contains a deleterious principle[65, 238]. The seed contains 17 - 20% of an edible semi-drying oil[4, 7, 8, 57]. This stores well without going rancid and is said to be equal in delicacy to olive oil[183]. It is used as a dressing for salads and also for cooking[238]. The seed residue is poisonous[9, 57]. The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute[2, 63].

Medicinal Uses



Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antacid;  Antipyretic;  Antiseptic;  Antitussive;  Bach;  Expectorant;  Odontalgic;  Skin.


The bark is antacid, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, odontalgic[7, 9]. A tar (or creosote), obtained by dry distillation of the branches, is stimulating and antiseptic[4]. It is used internally as a stimulating expectorant and externally as an application to various skin diseases[4, 238]. The pure creosote has been used to give relief from toothache, but it should not be used without expert guidance[7]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Intolerance', 'Criticism' and 'Passing judgements'[209].

Other Uses

Charcoal;  Fuel;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Oil;  Stuffing;  Teeth;  Wood.

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, it is used as a fuel for lighting, as a lubricant, for polishing wood etc[12, 13, 46, 57, 63]. The seed residue is poisonous[9, 57]. The leaf buds harvested in the winter and dried on the twigs are used as toothpicks[66]. The leaves are gathered in autumn and used as a stuffing material for mattresses etc[115]. Wood - hard, heavy, strong, very durable[13, 46]. It is not suitable for outdoor use[1] and is often attacked by a small beetle[4]. It has a wide range of applications, including furniture, flooring, turnery etc[100]. It makes a very good fuel[6, 66], burning with a lot of heat[4], and yields a charcoal known as 'Carbo Ligni Pulveratus'[46]. The wood has often been used as a source of creosote, tar, methyl alcohol. acetic acid[123].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pest tolerant, Hedge, Aggressive surface roots possible, Screen, Specimen. Thrives on a light or medium soil, doing well on chalk, but ill-adapted for a heavy wet soil[1, 11]. Prefers a calcareous soil but succeeds in acid soils though it does not make such a fine tree in such a situation[186]. Succeeds in almost any soil and any pH, it is also very tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions so long as there is sufficient rainfall[200]. Established trees are drought tolerant[186]. Very wind tolerant but dislikes salt[200]. Trees are shallow rooted and this might make them less wind resistant[186]. Trees have two growth periods a year, each of about 3 weeks in duration. The first is in spring around the end of April, the second is in summer, around the end of July. Trees are often slow growing and also can be very slow to establish after transplanting. However, in good conditions they are capable of growing up to a metre in a year. Young trees are very shade tolerant, but are subject to frost damage to their flowers and young leaves and so are best grown in a woodland position which will protect them[200]. An important food plant for many caterpillars, it has 64 species of associated insects[24]. Trees have a heavy canopy and cast a dense shade, very few other species can grow in a dense beech wood and on suitable soils it becomes the dominant species[186]. Very intolerant of coppicing, trees producing none or only very weak growth afterwards and this is soon smothered by other plants[186]. Plants are very tolerant of light pruning however and if this is carried out in late summer the plants will retain their dead leaves over winter[29]. There are many named forms selected for their ornamental value. Those forms with purple leaves prefer a position in full sun whilst forms with yellow leaves prefer some shade[188]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Propagation

Seed - the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn[186]. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

1117200

Links / References

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Readers comment

   Nov 29 2010 12:00AM

I have collected beechmast and processed it for oil - the yield is not high (some sources suggest 5kg of nuts for 1 litre of oil - this sounds about right to me) but it is a good oil (pale yellow/brown, quite light, not strongly flavoured) and has kept fine for a year in airtight bottles. Collecting beechmast is a bit of a hassle but pair of garden seives (small mesh on bottom, large mesh on top) can cut down on the husks and grit picked up when sweeping up the beechmast. Sadly sorting the good kernels from the bad is a manual job (unless someone has some kind of cyclone separator arrangement)

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