Common Beech

Common Beech
by Jenna Nevaeh

The birch is a tree of the northern hemisphere and its several species arc distributed throughout Europe, America and Asia. Most common on the Continent is the silver birch growing in the wild from Italy to the Balkan Peninsula, northwards beyond the Arctic Circle and eastwards far into Siberia. In central Europe it is plentiful from lowland to foothill elevations.

It attains heights of 20 to 25 metres and develops a slim bole topped with a crown of slender, pendent branches. It has a fairly short life span, attaining an age of 100 to 200 years. The twigs are covered with waxy warts. The bark is white and smooth, becoming blackish and fissured at the base. The flowers appear in April, and the fruits mature in June, being gradually dispersed great distances by the wind until the onset of winter. This, plus the fact that the tree grows well even on poor soils, makes it an important colonist of forest clearings, pastures and fallow land. The silver birch is a light-demanding species and stands up well to both frost and the sun’s heat. The white trunk and fresh green of its spring foliage make it an ornamental element in the landscape.

Plant Stuff

The beech is a slow- growing tree whose fallen leaves enrich the soil and in certain areas it is marked by abundant natural propagation by seed. The hard wood is used to make furniture, parquet flooring, sleepers and cellulose. Its ornamental forms are often planted in parks.

The Spanish chestnut is indigenous to southern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. As early as Roman times, however, it was introduced into more northerly regions, and later it was cultivated in monastery gardens by monks. Today, centuries old specimSns may be found in Great Britain and the whole of western and central Europe. The Spanish chestnut is often a large tree attaining a height of up to 30 metres with a trunk more than two metres in diameter. The oblong-lanceolate, boldly toothed leaves are ornamental.

It is easily recognized in winter by the narrowly ovoid, stalked, violet-brown buds. The broad obovate leaves arc sticky in spring. The Lowers, arranged in catkins, are already formed by the autumn and open in early spring (March), the female ones developing by autumn into woody cones with small winged nutlets. These are equipped with buoyant tissues that enable them to be carried great distances by air or water.

The common alder is marked by the vigorous production of stump sprouts and is often grown for coppicing. The roots have small nodules with nitrogen-fixing bacteria which thereby enrich the soil. The common alder is a fairly light- demanding, fast-growing tree. The yellowish-red wood is used for the foundations of bridges, for plywood and for matches.

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