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Family Foraging: Beech Nut

Discover how to forage for beech trees and edible nuts. Peeled beech nuts can be toasted in the oven for a tasty snack.

| October 2019

beech

Beech 

Fagus Sylvatica

Beech trees can grow to around 115 ft (35 m) tall, but you will often find them a lot smaller, around 29-1/2 ft (9 m) or about the height of a house. When in leaf they are dome shaped. Once the leaves die back in the fall, they often stay on the tree until a strong wind blows them off.

Leaves

The leaves are wavy and lime green, or even slightly silver, and a little hairy when they emerge. They grow to 1-1/2  to 3-1/2 in (4–9 cm) and lose their hairs as they mature. They are oval-shaped and wavy with a pointy tip. 



Flowers

Beech is what’s known as “monoecious,” which is a long word meaning male and female flowers grow on the tree at the same time as catkins and blossom. The catkins are long, droopy clusters of flowers which dangle off the tree like hundreds of earrings. The flowers are light brown (or red on a copper beech tree) and green and grow in pairs. They don’t stay as flowers for long, turning into little green furry balls which develop into the casing of the nut. 

Fruit or nut

A hard, four-sided furry case which will open when the nut is ripe. The nut has three sides and looks like a mini-chestnut; you get one or two of them in a case. If the flower has not been pollinated, the nuts are flat and contain no fleshy bit to eat. 



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