Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life's a Beech

Species name: Fagus grandifolia

Common name: American Beech

Location: Ontario

The American beech is a species of tree that is native to North America, from Nova Scotia west to Southern Ontario, and the southern border of the native species range is from Louisiana into Georgia. This is one of my favourite tree species because of its large, glossy bright green leaves. I took this photo in one of my favourite Environmentally Significant Areas in London, Meadowlily Woods.

The most common habitat for this species of tree is on forest slopes in shaded areas. It can tolerate periodically very wet soil as long as it's not standing water on the soil surface, and is most commonly associated with another native species, Sugar Maple. Beech-Maple climax forests were common in Ontario and the northeastern United States prior to massive clear-cutting for agricultural purposes. There is a disease that's becoming more and more common to this species of tree called the Beech bark disease. A beetle burrows its way into the bark of the tree, laying eggs as it goes and leaving an open wound as a result. From there, a fungus called Nectria invades the open wound and causes a bark canker (the vertical lines in the bark close to the base of the tree are cankers), which will eventually kill the tree.

The American Beech is a common species used in the Canadian and American lumber industries. It is most often used in flooring and in handles for various tools, but historically it was impossible to cut down because of its density when mature. Until the chainsaw was invented, old, very large beech trees were largely ignored by loggers and so some mature beech trees are still present in old growth forests.