Plant Lore: European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

In the age of e-books and Insta posts featuring bookshelves organized by color, it can be hard to remember that early publications were literally written on bark peeled from the trunks of trees. After what must have been a lot of trial and frustrating error, early bookmakers landed on a favorite tree for their wares and named them after it, too. Which tree, you ask? In Old English, the bece or boece, which we modern folks call beech.

Photo by Goldi59, courtesy iStock

This light gray, mammoth species — they always remind me of elephants — has an almost eternal lifespan (most will live up to 400 years) and a distinctively smooth bark. Because of their hulking scale and luminous hue, they’ve long been a favorite choice for parks and estates.