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The Beech

leaves, trees, tree, nuts and woods

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THE BEECH • I can always tell Ivhen I am coming to a piece 01' beech woods just by the smell of the said the inan who loves to explore new regions on his bicycle.

• How do they smell ? asked.

• Oh, as the beech nuts taste, I guess, Nvlien you get the first ones in Octol wr." The beech commends itself to us through all of our live senses. To the sight first. for it is a noble tree, with ample round dome, and broad. horizontal spread when it stands apart from other trees ; lufty and slender when crowded in forests. A lusty young beech is the most genteel looking. the best groomed of all the trees in the Avinter leoods. There is a quiet elegance of color and texture in the smooth. close-knit gray bark that covers the trunk. \o less elegant are the polished dark branches, and the slender to ids, and the lwown satiny ‘. bird's •law buds. There is an ness in the weave and the lit of its throughout that is a model for trees and I suspect the beech tree of being fastidious as to its roots as well.

\\lien the buds swell in -kiwi'. and the tender green tips of the leaves appear. set uff by the rich brown of the lengthening luid scales. a new and beautifid phase of the tree's life is revealed. The little leaves are plaited like palm leaves. the parallel veins heing crowded close to one ;mother on the lower side. A coin]) of silky hairs is borne on each fold above, and on each rib below. These combs overlap each other, giving the unfolding leaves a silvery look, and furnishing them protection from cold and heat until the blades have spread and become acclimated. After a few hours the danger point is passed. the leaf walls thicken. the protective hairs begin to shrivel away, and the full grown leaves assume their ditties as foliage.

With the opening leaves the beech hangs out on flexible stems its head-like clusters of stamens. They rise from the bases of the new shoots. In the arils of the leaves the pistillate flowers appear erect in twos oil the ends of short stems.

Each flower is in a scaly cup.

Through the long summer there is no tree more beautifully clad than the beech. The leaves are thin and soft as silk. and thnol•heet the season exceptionally free from blemishes made by insects or by fungi. In the fall the four-valved prickly bur ripens early to release the two triangular nuts that lie inside. llut the beech gives tip its foliage with greater reluctance. The leaves turn to a clear Yellow. cling to the twigs long after all others but the oak leaves have fallen. Young Leech trees in sheltered situations generally retain their leaves mail the following spring,.

The beech nut is small, thin-shelled, and very sweet. It has a lko•l nutritive value. European beech nuts have been from the dawn of history as human food ; the English named them because deer eat them. Exceptionally delicate is the flavor of pork when the swine are fattened by turning them out to forage in beech woods. The ancients loved the beech and extolled it in song and story. Ill luck. they believed, would overtake the man who used its wood as fuel. The tree was to the old Greeks the symbol of prosperity.

Beech wood is hard and heavy, straight-grained, and close of texture. in contact with the soil it is not durable.. Fnrniture, coopers' wares, and household utensils are made of it. Wooden bowls made of 1100141 11P1:01. 1Pn f fore forests beech •I onim . .....

in Europe and in America.. It is the important hard wood of Germany. The seeds are vigorous, the sap lings strong and shade-enduring. It is easy to see that a colony soon springs up about a single tree, and that a few trees scattered through the woods often, in a few years, make con quest of the surrounding territory. A mixed forest may gradually become a tract of beech woods.

The genus Fagus belongs to the enpulifera‘. the cup-bearers, and is related to the chestnut and the oak. The cup it hears is the prickly husk in which the two nuts are borne.

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