Beech leaves

Beech Trees

Common name Beech
Botanical name Fagus/Nothofagus species
Family Fagaceae
Natural range mostly Europe, but some in NZ and Aus
Mature height Varies
Form from shrubs to tall trees
Likes specific cold climates
Dislikes anything too warm/humid
Where to plant Cool climate gardens
Known for Colourful leaves

Who Belongs to the Beech Family?

Welcoming you to the world of Beech trees, a member of the botanical family Fagaceae, lovingly known just as Beech. Boasting versatility in their form, these trees transition from shrubs to tall trees effortlessly. They flourish in cold climates and can struggle in warmer, humid environments, making them the ideal residents of cool climate gardens.

Beech Trees: A Global Perspective

Ever wondered where Beech trees predominantly grow? Originating mainly in Europe, these trees have also found homes in select regions of New Zealand and Australia. Widely acknowledged as magnificent shade trees, the Beech tree is appreciated for its distinctive shape and striking autumn foliage in Europe and the US.

Interesting fact: Beech trees can live for hundreds of years, with the oldest known living beech tree, known as the ‘Old man of Calke’, estimated to be over 1000 years old.

Spotlight on the Copper Beech

Allow me to introduce the Copper Beech, scientifically dubbed Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropurpurea.’ This purple-leaved variant of the European Beech is a personal favourite and serves as an eye-catching spectacle in large parks and gardens where its colossal size can be fully appreciated.

The Southern Hemisphere Beech Trees

Interestingly, the Southern Hemisphere also hosts its share of Beech trees. Approximately 35 cool-climate Southern Beech trees are known, with species scattered across South America, New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Britain, and four varieties in New Zealand.

Further reading: The Southern Hemisphere Beech Forests: A Glimpse Into The Past

New Zealand’s Beech Varieties

Diving deeper, New Zealand has four distinctive Beech tree species, including Red Beech (Fuscospora fusca), Mountain Beech (Fuscospora cliffortioides), Black Beech (Fuscospora solandri), Hard Beech (Fuscospora truncata), and Silver Beech (Lophozonia menziesii).

Australia’s Beech Contribution

In Australia, we find three unique species – the evergreen Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei), and arguably the crowd favourite, the Deciduous Beech (Nothofagus gunnii), or ‘Fagus,’ Australia’s only winter-deciduous tree exclusive to Tasmania.

Interesting fact: The Deciduous Beech is also known as ‘Tanglefoot’ due to its low-growing, twisted branches that can trip up the unobservant walker!

The Tasmanian Beech Shrub

The ‘Fagus’ is a humble tree, bordering on a shrub, growing to around 2 meters in cool, damp locations. It’s often seen painting a picturesque landscape in the remote highlands of Tasmania.

Autumn’s Grand Display: A Colour Transformation

With the arrival of autumn, the leaves of the Fagus take on a spectacular transformation, shifting from rust-red to a stunning gold during late April and May. This colour show draws in leaf-peepers from around the globe to Tasmania, much like the evergreen beech trees of New Zealand that dominate the forests in most of the South Island and parts of the North Island.

Further reading: The Tasmanian Deciduous Beech: A celebration of autumn

Beech Trees, A Global Gem

To sum up, Beech trees, with their global presence and captivating colours, offer a delightful spectacle for tree enthusiasts and the everyday observer. These trees hold a special place in our hearts, whether they’re adding beauty to European parks, nestling in the highlands of Tasmania, or forming the lush forests of New Zealand. By gaining insights into their natural habitats, variations, and unique characteristics, we can not only deepen our appreciation but also contribute to their conservation.

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