Life’s a Beech

Some brief musings on one of my favorite trees. The beech.

On the edge of Ridge Hill, on a southern slope, is a beech grove.

Dog-hair beechbabies cluster around towering patriarch and matriarch progenitors.

If you go up close the the trunk of a big beech tree, and look up, here’s what you can see…

Move around the trunk, and you see another configuration of the branches.

The Arms of the Beech

As a child, I loved to spend time in trees… Different trees present different experiences. Oaks branch irregularly, and can be a real challenge to climb. Their first branches can be awkwardly high, and worse, those branches are sometimes too big to get your arms around. Pines can be fun, but the bark is scaly and rough. Get some of the pitch on you, and you’ll be sticky for days. Spruces and Larches, with their close and evenly spaced branches, can be as easy to ascend as a ladder.

But the beech, the well branched beech, is one of the best trees to climb. The bark is so smooth, you can go barefoot. That’s a really, really nice feeling, beechbark under bare feet.

A beech tree that grows without competition can be as broad as it is tall. A one-hundred-year-old beech is a magnificent tree, and at one hundred years may still be “young”. These trees can live for centuries.

The older beech takes on wonderful forms.

Sometimes, old beechbark seems like elephant skin.

Here is a selection of pictures of some older beeches.


Copper beeches, Challenger Drive, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Each branch, defined by bulbous base, seems almost a separate organism.


Beeches will try to heal if injured.

The tree tries to cover wounded areas with new growth.


Branch stubs. Some have completely healed over. The new amputation, on the right, has just begun the process of repair.

A wound, if too large, will fail to heal in time, and rot can set in. This tree grows too close to the road, and has been wounded by roadwork and vehicle impacts. Despite a serious invasion by fungus and rot, this tree could still have many years of life ahead.


Where detritus accumulates at branch locations, other plants sometimes take root.


Bittersweet vines grow high up in the tree.

Where branches cross or make contact, a tree will sometimes grow back together.


What wonderful forms, shapes, creases, folds, and lines.


4 responses to “Life’s a Beech

    • Thanks! I remember those fine, giant Ohio white oak trees, from some time spent in that state, in the 1960’s. (btw, I answered your equipment question, at the “Eos Visits Oyster Pond” post, but am not sure it went to you directly)

  1. Pingback: Arborean Silhouettes | thetompostpile·

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