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Kentucky Color: American Beech
By Billy Joe Fudge
American Beech is just about as shade-tolerant as a hardwood species can be. This means that it can germinate or root sprout in the deep, dark shade of the forest canopy. It will live and grow a little each growing season for decades while waiting for a hole in the canopy to allow in sufficient sunlight for it to push itself right up into the canopy.
Around this part of the world, Beech along with Sugar Maple become the climax forest, in that the canopy is formed of shade-tolerant species and the only thing below them to replace them when they die will be more shade-tolerant trees.
Since the demise of American Chestnut, Beechnuts or, Beech mast collectively speaking, is one of the most dependable sources of food for just about every species of birds such as wild turkey, Blue Jays and animals such as Black bear, foxes, squirrels, etc. They are the most tasty of nuts, but small and difficult for us humans to husk.
Since American Beech doesn't typically begin to produce seed until it is 40 or 50 years old, it is very hard to get pictures of Beechnuts. This particular tree was found growing right out in the open in the edge of a field where its limbs were low enough for me to reach. Beechnuts have always reminded me of tiny alien carnivores patiently waiting for an unsuspecting victim to get too close.
The Great Wooded South is flush with life and a place of peaceful community where each plant, big or small, magnificent or mundane and each animal, including you and me have a role to play in the success of that community. --BJF
This story was posted on 2019-06-29 07:30:17
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