Beech leaves and flowers

Beechy green street trees

I grew up with a huge Beech tree at the bottom of my garden. It was actually in the wood beyond but I regarded it as our tree – it protected our house and shaded our garden; it’s leaves and mast fell on our lawn and it’s scions appeared in the spring, sometimes in great abundance. Our giant didn’t have a name; there were many other specimens in the wood – presumably relatives, but this was the principal, The Beech Tree.

How lucky I was to live with such a magnificent companion. It was so vast I couldn’t detect annual expansion, it’s shape and size appeared constant. It was instead the seasonal variations that made their impact. Of these the winter and spring were my favourites. The Beech Tree protected us from winter’s storms bellowing through it’s high top and as the hoot of owls gave way to a more temperate cooing of wood pigeons the best bit was about to happen.

Beech leaves
Beech blanket: The green green leaves of home

In mid-April it started, brown leaf buds would swell and turn russet orange, they would start to unravel until the first fissures of brilliant green popped. There was no going back now and for a whole week the air would be filled with cast-off bud casings and the green riot would let rip.

The vivid green of fresh Beech leaves is, like Yves Klein’s International Blue, the truest expression of a colour I think. I love this leafy explosion above all the other gems of spring’s cluster bomb.

Beech trees in Hackney
Sylvatican family: Hackney Beech row

Beech is less familiar in London, and as street trees, they are very rare. Many London Beeches are cultivars – the copper beech being favoured in bosky suburbs. This metallic cousin of native European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a splendid tree and in spring delivers delicate magenta leaves.

I wonder why there are so very few Beech street trees? Maybe London’s clay soils do not favour them, perhaps the roots are too shallow, or perhaps they are too shady. I think we should reconsider them – as appears to be happening with conifers – they are a majestic species that could add a lot to London.

Copper beech
Purple patch: a fine mature Copper Beech street tree in Chiswick

Is there a tree officer out there who might like to try them in place of Planes or other large trees on a broad avenue somewhere?


Beeches on streetview

The Hackney row:

The Chiswick Copper:

One thought on “Beechy green street trees”

  1. Thanks. Very interesting. I feel quite lucky now to be able cycle by a Street Beech every day as they are such rare sights. Would be great to see more of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s