This tree native to southern England and Wales is a large deciduous tree with smooth grey bark can grow to a height of 40 metres. It develops a domed crown which spreads out into a dense canopy and gives shelter to animals seeking shade, and is home to many a bird and insect.
The leaves are oval with wavy edges, pale green in colour when young, and mid to dark green when mature. In the Autumn the beech gives a spectacular display of rich yellow and orange brown leaves. The leaves are 5-15 cm long, and 4-10cm broad. The autumn leaves fall when the new leaves are about to sprout.
The small catkin flowers grow in April and May are monoecious, meaning both male and female, and the beechnuts,10-15 mm long, are a triangular shape with small hairy husks, have often been used as food in generations past, prevented starvation.
The beech was used against mental rigidity, arrogance, intolerance, and lack of sympathy.
A poultice was made from the leaves for healing scabs and skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. It was noted that if you cut into the bark it would not heal, proving its rigidity, thus many a name was carved out on the beech tree.
Other uses for the beech tree is that it makes good firewood, smokes food such as ham, sausages, and cheese, makes drums used for Budweiser beer, furniture, sheds and such which are still made from this tree. One of the first uses of the beech tree was to cut it into thin slices for writing, forming our very first books. Beech; "boc" in Anglo- saxon means book.
The poet Tennyson referred to the roots of the beech tree as " serpent-rooted", but these roots do not go as deep as in the oak tree for example, and can easily fall if the roots become waterlogged. A hard frost can help the tree lower its roots further into the ground in the attempt to get away from the cold, thus ensuring its survival.