The Beauty of Trees
By Linda Tilston
The Beech tree is one of the tallest and most attractive of trees. It can reach a height of one hundred feet in the same number of years, and will continue to grow in girth for many years after it has reached its height. The huge trunk and impressive branches have a blue-grey bark, smooth in texture. The winter buds are pale brown, long and pointed and its leaves usually appear in April. These are bright green with an edging of white, downy hairs. Later on, this down is shed and the leaf thickens and becomes a darker green. This dark green lasts until October, when it turns to a striking russet before shedding itself from its branch. Some of the withered leaves still cling to life, until the newly developing leaves in the following spring pushes them off. This is the relentless cycle of nature. Life and rebirth are a vital part of a tree's world.
The Beech flowers are usually found on the mature trees, and a Beech tree is usually about forty years old before it gives flower. The brown Beech Nut called a `mast' or 'beechmast,' was once a useful food for pigs. In some European countries the oil from the beechmast was a substitute for butter, but whether it is now I am not certain.
The timber of the Beech is pale brown in tint, hard, used for the framework of cars and vans, and for making furniture -so it is not just for its physical beauty that the magnificent beech is to be admired. It gives us many rich gifts.
`The Venus of the Woods,' is also strikingly beautiful - hence its name. This is an appropriate name for the Ash, a tree native to Britain and is an apt tribute to both the lovely appearance and its grace. Like the beech, the Ash also grows to one hundred feet tall. This takes about a hundred and twenty years - even longer than the Beech's growth. The bark of the Ash starts as smooth and grey, but as it matures, it becomes more rugged in appearance, and darker. The beautiful leaves do not usually appear until May - which is later than most British trees display theirs and they fall in October. To further describe the Ash's spring loveliness then I must say that the flowers come before the leaves, in April and they hang in loose clusters. Its winter appearance shows the hard, black buds on opposite pairs on the smooth twigs - so it changes a great deal throughout the seasons.
While the wood is very tough it is, by contradiction, also pliable and has been used for walking sticks, hockey- sticks, and even the frames of large vehicles.
Another tree displaying fine leaves is the Walnut, meaning `foreign nut,' and the Romans introduced it into this country. It was cultivated more extensively in the 17` h century, and its leaves have the pleasing aroma of walnuts. This in addition, as the other trees I have spoken of grow to a great height and can have a girth of twenty feet. The nuts do not come until the tree is at least twenty years old.
Beautiful, different tints of brown intermingle to give a fine appearance to the wood of the Walnut, and so it is not surprising to know how prized it is for use in the making of good quality furniture. Walnut furniture is most attractive.
Trees do not just give us majestic appearances, lovely leaves for the breeze to dance through or for the sun to shimmer and dance on - they also give us wood that shape our world. We should be grateful for all that they give us from season to season.