Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Leaves of a Beech

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the woods behind my house--I would make fairy houses out of sticks and moss and climb trees to hide from my brother and his friends. I would hang on the tire swing my father hung over the gully or hide under the little bridge that he built over the creek looking for creepy crawly things.

Sometimes, I would just like to be in the woods doing nothing, sitting on the cool ground and day dreaming. We had a nice size beech tree just on the rise as you got into the woods behind the house and that was one of my usual sitting spots. I could see the house but imagined that the house couldn't see me.

Beech leaves have a simple shape. They are oval and have equally spaced pairs of veins off the stalk. While I was very good at sitting in the woods for long periods of time, my hands have always had to be busy and one of the ways that I would occupy my hands was to mindlessly strip the beech leaf from between the veins. I created piles of beech leaf skeletons.

Young beech trees hang on to their leaves even after all the other leaves in the forest have fallen. The beech leaves turn to brown but they stay on the tree and provide the rustle in the woods when the winter wind blows. Beneath the leaf that clings to the beech branch is a long cigar shaped bud. The leaf, brown and supple, protects the tender bud from the winter.

As winter winds down, the leaf goes from brown to transluscent tan. The picture on the right was taken of a beech grove during the first week of January, the one on the left was taken the third weekend of February. The leaves are barely hanging on--soon the buds will be on their own to make it through the storms of later winter and early spring.


The Texican said...

I occasionally hear the locals down hear talking about "sunny beeches" but I think we may be too far south for any species of beech to survive.

Beth said...

me thinks your neighbors are headed to the beach--somewhere I am starting to daydream about

Mary said...

Hi Beth,

Nice post in honor of a special tree. You brought back some memories of my childhood here. I grew up in the city so trees were very special to children for shade and fantasies! I remember a weeping willow we sat under, made mud pies, and used the willow twigs as part of our Tarzan attire :o)

beckie said...

How interesting. I have often seen the leaves, brown and hanging on all winter, but never knew the reason why. Now, I will know to look for the change and can say spring in on the way!

Kathiesbirds said...

Beth, I love beech trees. I use to have one I named Goliath. Their trunks and branches always look like elaphant skin or silvery muscles, but I didn't know all of that about the leaves. Thanks for enlightening me! What a well written post.