Campus Nature Trail
Common Beech is a native tree within England, but it is widely planted beyond. As a common native it is more abundant in the south of the country where it grows on free-draining soils on either chalk or acid sands.
The trunk is generally smooth, often silvery-grey.
The bud is long, slender and pointed and is really only confused with that of Hornbeam. The leaves are smooth, slightly toothed and with 6-7 pairs of veins. They are fresh, pale green to start with, becoming darker and shiny above with age. Again, Hornbeam can cause confusion but it is more toothed at the edge, duller and rougher on top. The leaf canopy is so dense that few plants will grow beneath.
The flowers emerge with the leaves, generally in May. The fruit is the familiar Beech nut which is contained in a spiny casing or involucre which splits in the autumn to release the triangular nuts.
Collectively the term "mast" is used for the fruits and when on the ground, it forms an important food source for birds, especially finches.
Unfortunately, while Beech forms a magnificent tree, it can rot from the inside and become dangerous.