Beech Tree

[ . BACK to TOP . ]


Beech Tree

***** Location: Ireland, Europe
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Plant


Beech tree (Latin: Fagus sylvatica)

The beech tree (or rather its leaves) in Europe is a kigo at least twice each year
-- in late spring / early summer for the fresh green of its young leaves,
young leaves of the beech tree

and in late autumn / early winter for the colouring of its leaves before they fall, and when they are shed.
red leaves of the beech tree

kigo for winter

Beech trees are either green-leafed or copper-leafed, and much enjoyed during the entire leaf-bearing season. During the winter, the trees’ branch structure is equally appreciated. The beechnuts are edible for humans, and prized by squirrels. The bark of the beech tree is smooth, and many a love-lorn person has carved names and wounded hearts into these trees.

Even though the beech tree is not officially recognised as a native tree of Ireland (not having grown there 10,000 years ago, when Ireland was cut off from mainland Europe), it is nevertheless common and has been planted in parks, avenues and hedges all over the country (especially in Leinster). Many ancient beech trees are free standing and may suffer during the worst of the winter storms.

40-year-old beech avenue in the Midlands of Ireland

Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski, 2007


The European Beech is the most common dominant climax tree of the woodlands and forests of central Europe and here it grows in a wide range of soils: acidic, neutral and calcareous. It is often found in combination with Silver Fir and Norway Spruce on the continent and this trio makes very productive, soil-improving forests. In the southern mountains of central Europe it will ascend to 1700 metres. The Beech is a native tree from southern Norway and Sweden down to northern Spain, Italy and the Balkans. The biggest species are found on low-lying sheltered parts. Towards the edges of its northern range it becomes rather stunted. In Finland, for example, its appearance will be much more bush-like.

The tree is able to thrive in poor thin soils, since its roots have a habit of spreading widely all through the upper layers of the soil. This is probably an important contributory reason why, in a wood that starts of with both oak and beech, the beech will usually end up being the dominating tree. The beech cannot cope with waterlogged soils and it prefers dry light soils. It also does well in heavier, stiffer loams, as long as the subsoil does not have a wet character. However, having said that, people have also observed that, as climate changes cause prolonged periods of hot dry weather, that the Beech does not thrive in drought conditions.

Beech delights in chalky subsoil and in Britain it is still only found growing naturally in the Cotswold Hills, the Chiltern Hills and the Sussex Downs, where the soils overlies chalk or limestone. Pollen grain studies suggest that Beech has been native to south England for at least 7000 years, but only around 500 BC did it spread to any considerable extent, including Wales and northwards to Yorkshire. Agricultural and timber felling practices may have eventually reduced its spread again, except on the thin limestone soils, which may not have been as attractive for ploughing to farmers as the more fertile lowlands.

Beech is an important timber tree and has displaced the Oak as Britain's biggest hardwood 'crop'. It has been successfully planted by foresters, as far north as Aberdeen, for its valuable wood, as shelterbelts, and as soil improvers. The beauty of this tree with its massive smooth trunk, its deep shade and attractive Autumn foliage, has also made it an extremely popular, widely planted ornamental tree. Young trees and those who are continually pruned, keep the brown , dry leaves on the twigs all through the winter and this peculiarity has made beech hedges a favourite choice around gardens and wherever else a windbreak or a non-see-through deciduous hedge is required.


Beech tree in winter

Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Irish Fea (Family - Fagaceae)

Description: Magnificent, large, deciduous tree. Important economic forestry tree.
Height: Max 40m. Age: mature at 120 years

Where found: Chalky soils and limestone but tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions. Up to 300m. Natural distribution in Southern England to Gloucestershire and a few localities in South Wales. Not native to Ireland. Found throughout most of Europe except Spain, Former USSR, Norway and Sweden.

Propagation and growth:
Grown from seed. Scaly cup splits in Autumn to release 2 three sided nuts. Seed should be moist chilled for approx 12 weeks before sowing. Approx 3000 germinable seeds per Kg. Best established when sheltered by birch or hazel coppice. Frost tender. Increases in size to 120 years.

Uses past & present:
Pale brown hard wood but relatively easily worked. Whitest wood considered to be best grade.

Uses of wood :
Large trees for timber. Not suitable for outside use although used for piles immersed in water. Used for furniture and many other uses such as bowls, spoons, tools, plywood, and veneers. Valuable as sawn timber. Good for firewood and production of charcoal.

Food and drink :
The nut is known as mast and occurs in abundance every five to eight years. It is nutritious and rich in oil and attractive to birds and small mammals including deer and badger. The oil can be extracted and used for culinary purposes.

Worldwide use


Rot-Buche (Rotbuche )
Gemeine Buche
Orientalische Buche

Read more names from other countries !



kigo for early summer

buna no hana 山毛欅の花 (ぶなのはな)
blossoms of the beech tree


North America

American Beech (Fagus grandiflora)

CLICK for more photos

American Beech trees live a long time in the eastern United States from Michigan to Texas, except in southern Florida. They are usually found as canopy trees on acidic soils growing at higher elevations. The bark of American Beech trees is smooth and gray. They are grown as a landscape tree and turn from green to bronze in autumn. The nuts are eaten by people and animals.

Janice Rosenberger, Kigo Hotline

Things found on the way

The historic Forêt de Soignes (Sonian Forest) of Brussels (Belgium), the biggest forest within a European city, consists very largely of beech trees and is a popular walking domain for the inhabitants of the surrounding communes.

More here :


beech avenue --
every bud on every twig
sparkling with dew

early nightfall --
the white of the snowdrops
under the old beech

even today --
beech leaves float in the wind
one by one

wayside statue --
Christ too is covered
in beech leaves

young dog --
every beech leaf is
a new world

Haiku and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


drover's road
beech leaves turn it
gold again



A Haiku Gallery of the WHC Autumn Festival Ginko
at Beacon Hill, Loughborough, Charnwood
September 23, 2001

'great place for haiku'-
from the giant beech shadows
rounds of laughter

grey autumn sky -
a golden beech candelabras
over it's sapling

© Haiku Series: Kevin Ryan


the darkness
of old beech trees
children's laughter

© Haiku Series: Haiku Series: Paul T. Conneally

Related words

***** Colored cover leaves of beech tree buds falling on snow

yuki momiji 雪もみじ , haru momiji 春もみじ
kigo for early spring

***** Storm, Gales Europa


Back to the Worldkigo Index

1 comment:

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

bunazaiku ぶな細工 beech tree craft
soft light from the forest
strips of about 1 cm width are would around in a circle of necessary size, then spread out into a form with a tea cup (1) - an act of long training by special craftsmen in Aomori.