Thus far in these, my public ruminations about plants, I have kept my dorkitude focused on smallish plants. True Welwitschia can get pretty big, but it’s kind of a weird shrub really. The dominant plants in our world are trees, and my favorite tree, at least at this very moment is the European Beech. It is a non-native, but not an invasive one. Kind of like Canadians. This is in contrast to Asian Bittersweet, that’s more like say the English were in the seventeenth century: invasive and pernicious.
Shortly before I trapped my wife and forced her to marry me (no one believes she came willingly), we had a cook out in our backyard. At this event we planted a tree to symbolize the enduring nature of our love. Or something like that. I read a poem. It was treacle city. In any case we chose a lovely European Beach -- a purple one. I’m sure it’s as lovely as ever, but we sold the house, so how should I know.
My in-laws also have a great F. sylvatica looming over their house. Since they repaved the driveway it’s been looking pretty sorry and is probably not going to make it. Maybe I’m going in the wrong direction here.
My absolute favorite F. sylvaticas are at the ZooMass in the courtyard of the Durfee Conservatory. Yowza!
These stately individuals make it clear how a place like the looniversity can be a service to plant geeks like myself (other than of course paying my salary). Beeches can live for hundreds of years. They are of course gorgeous in a real forest, but as specimen trees they really excel.
The arnold arboretum in some city east of here has several really wonderful specimens that have been around for a good bit more than a hundred years. The town of Beans in general boasts many gynormous individuals. There’s even a monograph about it.
Beech trees have a lovely pale bark that makes them stand out even when leafless
You’ll notice, I imagine, that a few folks choose to tag this tree with some sort of gang writing. At UMass no less! It is for this reason, that F. sylvatica is sometimes called the “trysting tree.” That sounds pretty naughty frankly.
Even at this early date, the buds are really lovely, but throughout the year the foliage puts on a show.
Sadly, one of the trees at Durfee had to be cut down last year. They’ve already planted a replacement.
That’s thinking about the future. It will be thirty years at least before this tree even flowers and the folks at Durfee have decided that there will be beeches in this courtyard for a long time.
One other wonderful feature of these particular beeches is the curtain of younger beeches around one of them. It is a little difficult to see in this photo because my assistant is kind of a knuckle dragger and can’t take good pictures, but the tips of the long branches
have touched the ground, rooted and turned into new trees
The young trees along the periphery of the parent create a sort of fence and hem you in under the impressive momma. Really lovely.
To sum up, F. sylvatica takes ages to grow, but when it’s mature is going to make the best tree in any yard or street.
N.B. Calvin Coolidge retired here in NoHo to a largish house called the beeches. I can’t think of a better name for a protective retreat.