Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Friday, May 25, 2007

American beech seen at Fort Donelson, TN

A few notes about Fagus grandifolia


Beech tree on the bluffs of the Cumberland River
Beech tree on the bluffs of the Cumberland River
These beech trees grow at Fort Donelson National Battlefield at Dover, Tennessee, on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River. They grow near each other, so it's likely that they are clones of each other. Beech trees send up suckers, and those suckers become beech trees that are genetically identical.

Beech trees are easily identified by their smooth, gray bark. Often the bark is not uniformly colored; it may have a splotchy gray appearance.

In a national battlefield, it is a federal crime to deface government property, but these trees have suffered a good bit of carving on their trunks.

Beech nuts are a valuable food for wildlife. The small, three-sided nut is borne in a prickly husk that splits open when the nut is ripe. The nut is enjoyed by a wide variety of birds and mammals, as well as man.

Beech trees prefer a mildly to moderately acidic soil and a fairly moist site with good drainage. They are not particularly susceptible to disease or weather damage, but they can be injured by drought, compacted soil, and chemicals that wash off streets. Young trees can be damaged by sunscald (long hours of intense sunshine.) They prefer -- and need! -- a shaded location.

Beech trees are slow-growing, but long-lived. They may live up to 300 years. I speculate that the trees in the photo are about 145 years old. It is likely that these bluffs were cleared of trees when the Confederate forces built fortifications here in 1861-62. These trees probably sprang up from roots in the ground after the site was abandoned by Union forces in 1863.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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