Common Beech Fagus sylvaticaBritish Grown
FAGUS SYLVATICA - Beech
Beech is one of the most impressive European trees. It is traditionally the forest tree of the temperate zone of western and central Europe. It represents the last stage in the natural succession of a forest. Solitary beech trees have a wide, dense crown and low branches which hang down. As a tree in avenues or forests, it develops a dead straight trunk with branches high above the ground. Trees more than 40m (130ft) tall or 30m (100ft) wide are not uncommon.
The leaves are oval, green and grow quickly from the ‘cigar’ shaped bud in the first week of May. As a consequence of the young tree's ability to hold onto its dead leaves in the winter, one of the most common uses of beech is for formal hedging. Keeping the hedge cut below 3m (10ft) preserves this phenomenon and gives the hedge all year cover, green from May to November, orange–brown the rest of the year.
Where to grow
Beech can be difficult to establish. Unlike most trees, it is only after bud burst that root growth, for that year, begins. The first roots to appear are very thin (with a diameter of less than 0.5 mm). Later, after a wave of above ground growth, thicker roots grow in a steady fashion.
They also prefer humus rich, light or medium soils and will not tolerate waterlogged root zones for any length of time. However during the establishment phase their root systems must not be allowed to dry out and regular watering is needed. This balance is crucial to planting success.
Did you know?
Although often regarded as native in southern England, recent evidence suggests that it did not arrive in England until about 4000 BC, or 2,000 years after the English Channel formed after the ice ages. It could have been an early introduction by Stone Age man, who used the nuts for food. The beech is classified as a native in the south of England and as a non-native in the north. Beech Forest is present in Southern England at Savernake in Wiltshire and the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire.
- Mature height
- Very Large - 20 metres+
- 15-20 meters
- Broad headed
- Growth rate
- Soil type
- Light sandy
- Sun levels
- Full sun
- Partial shade
- Difficulty/hard to grow
- Season of interest
- Autumn colour
- Small leaves
- Native Hedge
- Holds its leaves
- Good at altitude
- Parkland Tree
- Garden Tree
- City/Urban Sites
- Good Firewood
- Timber producing
- Wind break
Pruning Fagus sylvatica
Fagus sylvatica has relatively shallow roots for its eventual size. Training well ensures a sturdy frame that will offer stability once established. When the tree is young do not over prune as the laterals protect the young central leader from sun scorch. Grow with a strong central leader, removing any strong laterals that may compete. Over time a clear trunk of 3m can be reached.
If grown as a hedge, clip annually in midwinter.
What time of year is best for pruning? Prune in winter when the tree is dormant. Pruning is possible in summer if necessary.
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass. The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:
- Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup. Apply each year for the first 3 years. It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
- Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.
Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.