Every month DD Storyteller shares a seasonal nature tale for children. Today’s story is the video below and if you’d like to know more about the beech tree, it’s well worth reading the little introduction below which highlights some of the special features of this popular (imported) British tree…
The Beech Tree’s Story
Often referred to as mother, empress or queen of the woodland, it is difficult to miss the blazing canopy of the beech tree in late autumn. A walk through most woodland at this time of year will show you that this tree is one of the last to shed her leaves.
Growing up to 40ft tall, the beech is sometimes considered the consort to the King of the woodlands, the oak tree and is thought to have arrived in the UK around 4000BC. Archaeologists have theorised that late Neolithic tribes planted the seeds of the trees so that they may harvest the nuts for food.
Today beech are mainly found in deciduous woodland or used as hedging plants in our gardens and farms. The beech is only considered native to the south of England although interestingly the largest hedge in Britain, according to the Guinness Book Of Records, is a beech hedge that can be found in Meikleour in Perth, Scotland, and is a third of a mile long and 100 feet tall.
The ancient roots of the beech (no pun intended) mean that in folklore this is a magical tree. For many, the beech offers good luck and wearing the seeds, leaves or bark of the beech tree is thought to bring the wearer good luck.
In mythology, Henwen a white sow, possess great wisdom from eating the nuts of the beech tree, but the beech tree is associated with knowledge and wisdom for other reasons too. The first books were created using very thin slivers of beech trunk. This fact is born out by the fact that the Anglo Saxon word for the beech is ‘boc’ and today, the German for beech is ‘buche’ just on letter away from the German word for book, ‘buch’.
The beech tree also plays a very important part in the ecosystems of our woodlands. Because the beech tree is often so old it provides a vital habitat for certain fungi, wood-boring insects and nesting birds. When is canopy is green and fresh caterpillars from several species of moth dine on it whilst below it shelters some of the rarer woodland plants in a symbiotic relationship. When the nuts fall from the tree a variety of small woodland mammals will take them home for dinner.
You can listen to the story of the beech tree and why she holds onto her leaves for so long in the video that is with this post. You can also create a picture of a bonfire of beech leaves in the activity that follows, also on the video. And of course, you can go out and discover this wonderful tree, her smooth bark and flaming leaves by seeking her out in your local woodland.