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Botanical Name: Fagus sylvatica
Family: Corylaceae (Fagaceae)
Synonyms: Buche. Buke. Boke. Bog. Bok. Buk. Hetre. Faggio. Faya. Haya. Fagos.
Part Used: The oil of the nuts.
Habitat: Europe, including Britain. (Indigenous only in England.) Armenia, Palestine, Asia Minor Tanan.
Beech grows on a wide range of soil types, acid or basic, provided they are not waterlogged. The tree canopy casts dense shade, and carpets the ground with dense leaf litter, and the ground flora beneath may be sparse.
The southern beeches Nothofagus previously thought closely related to beeches, are now treated as members of a separate family, Nothofagaceae. They are found in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia and South America.
Description:Beech (Fagus) is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe and North America. Beech was a late entrant to Britain after the last glaciation, and may have been restricted to basic soils in the south of England. Today, beech is widely planted for hedging and in deciduous woodlands, and mature, regenerating stands occur throughout mainland Britain below about 650m. The leaves are entire or sparsely toothed, from 5-15 cm long and 4-10 cm broad. The flowers are small single-sex, wind-pollinated catkins, produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear. The bark is smooth and light gray. The fruit is a small, sharply 3-angled nut 10-15 mm long, borne in pairs in soft-spined husks 1.5-2.5 cm long, known as cupules. The nuts are edible, though bitter with a high tannin content, and are called beechmast.
The beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) is a common pest of beech trees. Beeches are also used as food plants by some species of Lepidoptera .
The beech most commonly grown as an ornamental tree is the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica), widely cultivated in North America as well as its native Europe. Many varieties are in cultivation, notably the weeping beech F. sylvatica ‘Pendula’, several varieties of Copper or purple beech, the fern-leaved beech F. sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’, and the tricolour beech F. sylvatica ‘roseomarginata’. The strikingly columnar Dawyck beech occurs in green, gold and purple forms, named after Dawyck Garden in the Scottish Borders, one of the four garden sites of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
The European species, Fagus sylvatica, yields a utility timber that is tough but dimensionally unstable. It is widely used for furniture framing and carcass construction, flooring and engineering purposes, in plywood and in household items like plates, but rarely as a decorative timber.
Chips of beech wood are used in the brewing of Budweiser beer as a fining agent. Beech logs are burned to dry the malts used in some German smoked beers, to give the beers their typical flavor.
Also, beech pulp is used as the basis for manufacturing a textile fibre known as Modal.
The fruit of the beech, also called “Beechnuts“, are found in the small burrs that drop from tree in Autumn. They are small and triangular, are edible, have a sweet taste and are highly nutritious. (~ 20% protein content). However, they do contain organic substances which are slightly TOXIC (it has been reported that eating approx. 50 nuts may make you ill) so that they should not be eaten in larger quantities.
Constituents: The wood ash of the Beech affords a large proportion of potash. The oil of the nuts occupies a position in the fixed oils between the vegetable non-drying and the true drying oils. Like the Cotton-seed oils, it forms more or less elaidin on treatment with nitrous acid or mercuric nitrate, but does not become wholly solidified. Beech tar is completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid. Turpentine oil, chloroform and absolute ether do not entirely dissolve it. The petroleum ether is not coloured by copper acetate solution. Choline is present in the seeds.
The tar is stimulating and antiseptic, used internally as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, or externally as an application in various skin diseases.
The oil is used in the same ways as the other fixed oils of its class.
Other Species:BEECH DROPS (OROBANCHE VIRGINIANA,EPIFAGUS VIRGINIANA, BROOM RAPE, CANCER ROOT), a parasite on Beech tree roots, has a bitter, nauseous, astringent taste, diminished by drying. It is given internally in bowel affections, and is reputed to cure cancer, though this is doubtful As a local application to wounds or ulcers it will arrest gangrene. It appears to act upon the capillary system like the tincture of muriate of iron.
ALBANY BEECH DROPS (Pterospora Andromeda) is a rare plant of North America valuable as a sedative diaphoretic in typhus, pleurisy and erysipelas
COPPER-BEECH (F. sylvatica var. purpurea). The leaves of this species may be used like those of the Red-leaved Hazel for the extraction of anthocyan pigment.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.