Thursday, February 16, 2012

American beech

American beech trees are a ghostly presence in winter.  Their leaves persist until expansion of new buds pushes them off in early spring.

Shade-tolerant, young beeches became established and persist as saplings in the understory of mixed hardwood forests in the Piedmont of the Southeastern U.S., and maybe elsewhere, too.

beeches near the old sawmill in the Schoenike Arboretum, SC Botanical Garden
In a mild winter, other hardwood species retain their leaves, too.  Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), also known as musclewood or American hornbeam, is a beech look-alike in winter guise this year along the stream near Crucible, apart from the distinctive long buds signifying beech.

There are a lot more beech saplings in the understory today than were present five years ago -- it's something I've noticed particularly this winter.

I'm thinking that the easing of the decade-long drought might have encouraged a 'cohort' of establishment (first seedlings and now saplings) in the understory of our mixed hardwood forests, where seed-producing beeches were nearby. 

This is evident both in woodland/forest areas near the Meditation Garden, as well as beyond the powerline corridor, where the photo (above) was taken (adjacent to the beech grove).

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