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European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Beech trees are characterised by alternate, pinnate leaves, flowers in the form of catkins and fruits in the form of nuts which grow within scaly or spiny husks. It is a common sight in the British landscape and its leaves carpet the woodland floor in autumn in a spectacular rusty bronze.
Leaves of the beech tree
Myths & legends
Facts, figures and uses
Unlike many of our other majestic trees there is relatively little, written, information about the beech. In Celtic mythology and particularly in Gaul and the Pyrenees, Fagus was the god of beech trees. It is thought that this tree was sacred to the Greek god Zeus and was seen as a symbol of prosperity. It is also believed that the beech is the embodiment of Diana, goddess of the wild woodlands. But it does not appear to have the same importance in our folk myths as the ash or oak, for instance. And yet the tree has many medicinal properties and various parts of it have been used to treat a large number of complaints from skin infections to worms. Its oil has also been used for burning in lamps. If you know of any folk tales or myths about the beech tree, perhaps you know of local tales of individual trees or general stories about the beech itself, please contact us. The beech is a large, deciduous tree which grows to approx. 40m. and can be considered mature when it reaches 120 years old. The beech prefers chalky soil and limestone but can thrive almost anywhere. It produces catkins early in the year, between April and May, and edible nuts which ripen in October and fall from the tree between November and April. The beech can be found throughout most of Europe except for the former USSR, Spain, Norway and Sweden. Beech wood is traditionally put to many uses including furniture, bowls, plywood and veneer. It is not suitable for use outdoors unless it is in the form of piles which are immersed in water, but is often used to make charcoal. Beech trees produce nuts, known as mast, in large quantities every 5 – 8 years. The oil is rich and nutritious and can be extracted for culinary purposes.