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Fagus sylvatica L.
The European Beech starts to flower when it is between 30–80 years old. The flowers are small catkins which appear shortly after the leaves in spring. The seeds, called beechnuts, are small triangular nuts 15–20 mm long and 7–10 mm wide at the base; there are two nuts in each cupule (missing on my photos), maturing in the autumn 5–6 months after pollination. Flower and seed production is particularly abundant in years following a hot, sunny and dry summer, though rarely for two years in a row. The nuts are an important food for birds, rodents and in the past also humans.
The natural range extends from southern Sweden to central Italy, west to France, southern England, northern Portugal, central Spain, and east to northwest Turkey, where it intergrades with the oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), which replaces it further east. In the Balkans, it shows some hybridisation with oriental beech; these hybrid trees are named Fagus × taurica. In the southern part of its range around the Mediterranean, it grows only in mountain forests, at 600–1,800 m altitude like the one found on the photos.
Nuts are slightly toxic to humans if eaten in large quantities due to the tannins they contain, nonetheless nuts were pressed to obtain an oil in 19th century England that was used for cooking and in lamps. They were also ground to make flour, which could be eaten after the tannins were leached out by soaking.
Spotted on Jan 7, 2012
Submitted on Apr 9, 2013
Thank you :)
Very good information!