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Beech Trees at Peak Foliage Color

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
November 9, 2015

beeches_DirectorsBlog15

Beech Trees at Peak Foliage Color

beeches_DirectorsBlog15

Time is of the essence! Make your way to the beech collection at the Arnold Arboretum in the next few days to admire Fagus sylvatica ‘tortuosa’ (14599*A) at the peak of its fall colors. This magnificent specimen came to the Arboretum in 1888. Standing under the canopy is akin to entering a medieval cathedral with the most magnificent (and ephemeral, in this case) stained glass windows filtering the light. Look up at the winding aged shoot system and enjoy the solitude of being alone with a single beautiful organism in a sea of trees in an urban oasis.

The Arboretum hosts more than a dozen cultivars of European beech (purple-leaved, cut-leaved, weeping/pendulous forms), but none of these evolutionary deviants comes close (in my opinion) to the dramatic Fagus sylvatica ‘tortuosa’. Interestingly three disjunct populations of this extraordinary (and very slow growing) form occur naturally in France, Germany, and Sweden. One unsolved mystery is whether these European populations of tortuosa beech represent three separate mutational origins of the tortuosa form or were moved from a single population by admiring humans centuries ago.

Hot tip on Peters Hill: Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood, 689-75*A), a relative of witch-hazel, is at its peak of fall colors – purples, reds, yellows, oranges, greens – all on one plant! Definitely worth a pilgrimage. Arnoldia article here.

 

-Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum

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