Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beech: A Winter Standout


As I glance into the woods most of the trees are bare and stand stark against the crisp blue sky, save one. The golden bronze leaves of the American Beech tree are sprinkled throughout the understory layer of our property. These elegant trees are the glory of the midwinter wood, as flowering dogwoods and redbuds are to its spring.


The gracefully spreading form of the branches show off the movement of their handsome foliage, which at times appears a pale beige and others a rich taupe.


The furling leaves are inviting, like a tenderly wrapped shawl. The light plays off the trembling leaves as the arctic wind rustles these palomino colored leaves on a blustery day.


These trees hold fast to their dried leaves almost all winter long. Marcescent leaves are more common on smaller trees and sometimes on the lower branches of mature trees. Some speculate that retained leaves conceal buds and make it difficult for browsing animals, like deer, to nip twigs. Perhaps the leaves provide a bit of shelter for birds who perch puffed up, enduring the winter elements in a hardwood forest that stands undressed.


This winter I'm enjoy these brown leaves waving to me from the forest. They add much texture, color and movement to an otherwise sleepy wood.

19 comments:

  1. Beautiful, descriptive words Karin!

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  2. I love beech trees. There's one just inside the woods near the house that lights up like a candle after all of the other trees have turned. There's a lot down by the creek too. We saw a big gorgeous mature one in December that was a gorgeous brilliant orangey bronze in the late afternoon light.

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    1. "lights up like a candle" I love that! It really captures what beech trees do in winter. It is amazing how the leaves can be so many different colors of brown depending how they capture the light.

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    1. Thank you! Their leaves are best in the evening sunlight and its a great time to be out in the woods.

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  4. Lovely words and images, Karin. We have Beech trees here, too. I agree--it's magical to see the light and wind play in the remaining dried foliage. :)

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    1. It's great that this is such a common tree in North America so many of us can enjoy its beauty and magic.

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  5. Here, the oaks are our winter jewels. Today at the Falls, they were beautiful in among the ice laden trees. We too have beech and I love how they curl.

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    1. Oh, I am looking forward to those photos Donna! As dangerous as ice is, it does make for spectacular sights.

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  6. The leaves are lovely & I would enjoy watching them as well, if I had them in my garden. I quite like all of the shades of brown during the winter & their various swaying dances in the breeze. I originally didn't prune/cut back etc., in the fall for lack of time, but I've since come to realize that if I did so, all of that winter interest would be gone.

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    1. Absolutely! I enjoy watching all the birds, especially sparrows hop around under the spent foliage looking for seeds that dropped from the seed heads and also finding shelter there. There is a lot of benefit for the gardener, wildlife and nature to not prune and clean up the garden in fall.

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  7. I have always been a bit irritated with trees that hang onto their leaves until spring, but you have given me an entirely new perspective. I had not thought of how the leaves may be protecting new buds and also giving shelter to wildlife. And the leaves of your beech trees are lovely with the light glowing through them!

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    1. I'm glad I changed your mind Deb. Years ago I felt the same way as you. There is an oak tree near our house that hangs on to its leaves and they aren't as pretty as the beech leaves but I've learned to appreciate them too.

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  8. Love beech trees, especially in the winter. Nice post.

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    1. Thanks Janet. I bet your woods are full of them too and look beautiful along the waterfront.

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  9. A beautiful tree, rare in my area.

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    1. I had to look up the native range Jason and so it appears that it stops at the Indiana border. A bit in Eastern Wisconsin and maybe southern Illinois.

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  10. I would love a beech and thought we had planted one until I found out it was not a native beech. It did not survive.

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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