How lucky we are to have so many beautiful beech trees nearby! Beeches (Fagus grandifolia), my favorite trees, are common on the slopes above Bel Pre Creek. Many are tall and venerable elders, with canopy too dense to allow much undergrowth. Where several beeches are close, they create a splendid open look of dappled glades and thick silvery trunks; spaces are pillared and vaulted like cathedral cloisters.
Scientific studies have proven that spending time in nature can reduce your stress hormones, lower your pulse rate, and improve your blood pressure. Even a small neighborhood park like ours beside the Henson Trail provides restful places to be apart from busy daily life.
Walking under beeches in early spring is just such a blessing. The air is mild, and scudding clouds drop short slanting showers that barely dampen the ground. Straight gray beech boles, streaked with moisture, make me feel I am impossibly small and walking among stationary elephants. The trees’ pewter‑colored branches are all tippedwith dark new growth that ends in pointed amber flames of tightly furled leaf buds. I walk across netted roots on an amber carpet of the last generation of leaves. Amber to green to amber again. A beautiful progression.
By late April, the beeches’ upper branches are golden-green crowns, while the lower leaves are still tightly held by the furled amber calyxes. Soon the leaves all burst forth, and the hill above the creek is a glory of tender soft green. The new leaves, fully out, are edged with fine pale hairs and creased like a partly folded fan. Beneath the trees lies a litter of cast‑off amber hulls.
Beeches are an essential part of our park’s small forest. Gray rivulets of roots cascade down the slope, merging with and melting into the earth, holding fast lest earth and tree slide together into the creek. Branches and roots capture rainfall, slowing its progress to the ground and retarding its loss. Old leaves and fallen branches contribute to uneven, spongy soil surfaces that divert and slow runoff on its way down to the creek. Boughs shade the water and keep its temperature cooler on warm days.
On some warm day soon, do take a little time to sit on a beechroot bench by the creek and just relax. Breathe deeply, listen to the birds, and feel the strength of the trees. It’s good for your health!